Category Archives: Xbox One

Sam & Max Save the World Review – Xbox

I’ve been a lifelong fan of Sam & Max for over fifteen years now, so I was extremely happy when I learned that their Save the World adventure series was getting a fresh remaster.  Previously released on PC and Switch last year, my favorite animated buddy cops make their way to the Xbox with the same enhanced visuals and audio for a whole new generation of console adventure game lovers. This 6-episode series has received the royal treatment when it comes to graphics, audio, and even gameplay; definitely a step up since the last time the game was on the Xbox 360 in 2009.

The most obvious update is transforming the original 4:3 screen to a 16:9 while updating the 1024×768 resolution to include 4K/HDR with all-new dynamic lighting and improved animations and lip-sync.  Character models have been updated to more closely reflect the look of Steve Purcell’s comics, and there is a new interface and opening credits sequence that help blend all six episodes into a singular experience.  This truly looks like a game created for this generation, and thanks to enhancements for things like shooting and driving the game even plays better.

The audio has also received a huge update.  Back in 2006 episodic games were harder to download so the audio was greatly compressed to keep files small, but now the developers have gone back to the original source recordings and remastered all the amazing dialogue and Sam & Max have never sounded this great.  You’ll also get to enjoy five new jazz tracks written by composer Jared Emerson-Johnson and performed by some of the original musicians.  Observant players will also find all sorts of newly added Easter Eggs and fun references scattered throughout the episodes.

So I’ve basically just told you everything that’s new about Sam & Max Save the World Remastered but perhaps you are unfamiliar with this crime-fighting duo.  Sam is a six-foot, fedora-wearing adorable dog ripped right from the pages of Dragnet with more crazy expletives than a Batman sidekick…I’m looking at you, Robin.  His partner, Max, is a hyperactive, potentially psychotic, wisecracking rabbit whose major contribution to the team is comedic relief.  Together, these two detectives solve crimes and today they are going to save the world.

Sam & Max is a classic point-n-click adventure and this remaster doesn’t stray from that formula, which can date the gameplay at times.  A lot has happened with adventure game design over the past fifteen years, both in UI and interaction.  I have to admit I was surprised when I found there was only one action per click.  In a world where you can now look/take/use items with a simple mouse-over this seems so basic, yet charmingly refreshing and simple to only have to click on something for a singular result.  On the PC you had easy access to the environments with a mouse but now, on the Xbox you only have a gamepad and are forced into a more cumbersome interface since you are replacing the mouse with an analog stick, and sensitivity and precise cursor placement is an issue.  Thankfully you can use the right stick to cycle through all the various hotspots in each scene if you don’t feel like walking around.  Once you click on an item or person Sam will automatically walk there.

Being a traditional adventure game you can expect plenty of dialogue trees, and you will want to explore every last branch so you don’t miss a word of this hilarious script.  It’s also one of those situations that when you find out new information you need to revisit characters for newly sprouted branches with entertaining results.  Buried in all the conversations are useful clues that will help you solve the numerous puzzles scattered about the game, most of which involve inventory that you keep in a box for future use.  Puzzles are fairly localized so you won’t need to go far to find clues and items to solve them.  There is even a button you can press to reveal all the interactive hotspots in any given scene, so it is impossible to miss anything unless you feel that this is cheating.  I dislike pixel-hunts so this was a lifesaver for me.

Sam & Max Save the World Remastered contains all six episodes, each taking around two hours to beat, but having the entire series available from the onset reveals some issues that may have gone overlooked in 2006.  While each episode has unique story elements and a few original locations much of the cast and scenery is recycled giving the game a slightly repetitive feel to it.  Originally, you had to wait between episodes so it probably wasn’t an issue, but if you sit down and binge the game in one or two sittings expect some déjà vu.  It also doesn’t help that some of the episodes fall flatter than others, and the game can get tedious in parts that require excessive backtracking.

Still, the remaster is an impressive effort with everything that could be improved doing so.  I found the audio portion of the remaster especially effective considering how much dialogue and humor factor into the overall experience.  Actual gameplay and puzzle design continuously evolve over the years, so Sam & Max Save the World Remastered might not be as sophisticated as other recently developed titles, but their charm and wit is timeless.  For only $20 you can now enjoy this blast from the past, better than ever on the Xbox One or S|X.

Murder Mystery Machine Review – Xbox One

Murder Mystery Machine promises to put you in the shoes of a detective and solve gritty homicides using your clever deduction and puzzle-solving abilities. Originally launching on Apple Arcade in 2019, it was originally an episodic mystery, puzzle game. Now launching on consoles and PC, with all 8 episodes, it hopes to find a new audience in the various platforms. There is an array of challenges when translating interactive entertainment from a mobile device to other platforms such as interface, play session length, and dollar-to-value expectations. Will you have the gumption to solve this mystery, or will this case remain uncracked?

Developed by Blazing Griffin out of Glasgow, Scotland, this studio develops video features, post-production services, and video games. With a headcount of over 45 people, the current permutation of this company came from a merger of three different companies. Presumably, this accounts for such a diverse offering in the creative arts space. Touting a coveted BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) award, the video game development wing of this studio is best known for a remake of The Ship and Murderous Pursuits. Needless to say, this team is no stranger to the theme of murder mystery. Murder Mystery Machine was developed and released on Apple Arcade forgoing the free-to-play model in favor of the tech giant’s mobile game subscription service. From the moment you load up Murder Mystery Machine, its mobile roots and episodic structure feel out of place on this new console ecosystem.

You play as Cassandra Clarke, a graduate from the police academy who is reporting for her first day on the job at the District Crime Agency. With an isometric top-down view, you’ll start your first day by meeting your disgruntled partner, Nate Huston. Nate makes it clear that you are not welcome in this dilapidated department nor are you a suitable partner. The police department acts as a hub-world where you’ll have a conversation with Nate and then interact with a strange terminal that bears the game’s namesake, Murder Mystery Machine. It’s not explicitly clear what this terminal is doing or why it is needed in the structure of the game, however, it is where you’ll need to go to progress through the stages and chapters of each case take.

The gameplay starts with you and frequently Nate, sizing up a crime scene and having initial conversations with a witness. You’ll begin scanning the environment for clues represented as icons on your evidence board. As you being to make logical links between the different icons, new dialogue options will arise. After exhausting your deductions, you’ll be able to hypothesize a person, weapon, place, or motive. If your theory is correct you’ll be given a grade and move on to the next stage in the case or solve your current mystery to move onto a new one. Each of the 8 cases has 3-6 individual chapters and depending on whether you utilize the games Hint System, each case will take about an hour.

The art design features 3D assets with a camera-rotation system to make you feel like you’re scouring every nook and cranny for clues. There are some audio queues as you interact with different evidence, but largely you’ll be listening to the same sound-bed in the background. To keep up with the twists and turns of the plot you’ll need to read and re-read quite a bit of text as none of the characters are voiced. I would also note that it felt a bit out of place to have Nate’s dialogue evoke an “old-and-crusty” detective when his character model looks like a teenager.

The writing in Murder Mystery Machine is varied and inconsistent. Apart from the narrative technique, the game lacks thorough localization for the North American audience. For example, one piece of evidence is labeled as a suspect’s “ledger.” However, linking it to purporting evidence, it should have been labeled as an “Expense Report.” This was further apparent with terms like “Car-Park” rather than “Parking Lot.” It may sound like a minute detail, but when you’ve been drawing lines on an evidence board for half an hour trying to reflect what you’ve already figured out, you start rooting for the murderer.

The evidence board is arguably where you’ll spend half your time. Linking people, places, weapons, and motives to one another in order reflect your deductions. The interface screams touch screen or at least mouse and keyboard. Using a controller to try and organize my board into orderly categories was frustrating. To add insult to injury, a text window would overlap my icons reminding me to link evidence to unlock new dialogue paths. I quickly turned off the game’s tips system and became overly reliant on asking the game for hints out of frustration. Eventually, I began to see some of the design choices and patterns that expedited this process, but it was certainly at the expense of fun. Instead of feeling like a brilliant Sherlock Holmes, I was continually asking the game for help to understand how to communicate what I had already figured out.

My final qualm is with the story itself; Specifically the protagonist, Cassandra Clarke. Without giving away a larger narrative happening behind the scenes, your character quickly acclimated to this severe and cruel world. Instead of redeeming her fallen comrade into “Protecting and Serving,” she begins to browbeat and threaten her suspects to force confessions and cooperation. There may be a cultural gap between the game’s origin in Scotland and the North American market, but those are heavy themes and I get the feeling that Blazing Phoenix was intending to walk down that road. I began to dislike my character for berating a grieving Mother and forcing suspects into damning positions so that I could get my way. Because of the game’s lackluster writing, I don’t get the feeling this was created as a commentary on the topic.

In the end, I did not feel that Mystery Murder Machine delivered on its promise. Between a clunky interface, obtuse evidence board, and inconsistent writing I was not able to find the fun of playing detective. In some cases, games miss their intended mark because they aren’t able to fully execute the original vision. In this case, I don’t think the game is under-backed, I think I just don’t like what came out of the oven. For me, Murder Mystery Machine has turned into a cold case.

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Annapurna Interactive’s The Artful Escape Now Available on Steam, Xbox

The Artful Escape, published by Annapurna Interactive and developed by Beethoven & Dinosaur, is now available on Xbox Game Pass, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC via Steam for $19.99.

The Artful Escape is a musical narrative adventure about a teenage guitar prodigy who sets out on a psychedelic, multidimensional journey to inspire his stage persona. Through light platforming, intergalactic guitar jam sessions and snazzy character customization, players step into the shoes of Francis Vendetti as he faces the shadow of his late uncle, a deceased folk legend, on the eve of Francis’s first show. The game features voice performances by Michael Johnston, Caroline Kinley, Lena Headey, Jason Schwartzman, Mark Strong and Carl Weathers.

In addition, the official The Artful Escape soundtrack is now available through Steam, Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon, Tidal, and Pandora.

For all the latest updates on the game, follow Annapurna Interactive and The Artful Escape.

Quake | Enhanced Re-Release Available Now

Announced today during QuakeCon at Home, in celebration of 25 years since the release of the dark fantasy first-person shooter, an enhanced version of the original Quake is available today on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Game Pass for console and PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch, and backward compatible on Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 5. Native Xbox Series X|S and PS5 versions bringing native 4K at 120 FPS will be available soon as a free upgrade.

The Original Quake, Enhanced 
Experience the authentic, updated, and visually enhanced version of the original Quake.

Featuring resolutions up to 4K and widescreen resolution support, enhanced models, dynamic and color lightning, anti-aliasing, depth of field, and the original soundtrack and theme song by Trent Reznor. There has never been a better time to relive or experience Quake for the first time.

Online, Cross-play, & Local Multiplayer and CO-OP 
Fight through the dark fantasy base campaign and expansions in 4-player online or local split-screen co-op, and compete in pure, retro-style combat with support for 8-player (online) or 4-player (local split-screen) matches. Featuring cross-play between all platforms and dedicated server support for online matchmaking and peer-to-peer support for custom matches.

Original and New Expansions Included 
Quake also comes with both original expansion packs: “The Scourge of Armagon” and “Dissolution of Eternity,” as well as two expansions developed by the award-winning team at MachineGames: “Dimension of the Past,” and the all-new “Dimension of the Machine.”

The enhanced version of the original Quake is available now. Players who already own Quake on Steam and Bethesda.net will receive this enhanced update for free. For much more on the re-release of Quake, visit bethesda.net.

Accessible Audio-Focused Action-Adventure The Vale: Shadow of the Crown Available Now on PC and Xbox One

Today, Falling Squirrel’s award-winning, audio-only action-adventure game The Vale: Shadow of the Crown launches on PC (Steamitch.io, and Epic Games) and Xbox.

Winner of the 2018 Ubisoft Indie Special Prize and the Reboot Develop Red 2019 Special Selection Prize, and developed in close consultation with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB), The Vale: Shadow of the Crown trades visuals for audio cues, creating a distinct take on action combat that breaks down barriers for low-vision and blind gamers.

Oddworld: Soulstorm to launch on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One consoles

Today, Microids and Oddworld Inhabitants are pleased to confirm that the explosive action-adventure platformer Oddworld: Soulstorm is coming to Xbox One consoles and Xbox Series X|S. Retail editions will also be available for Xbox versions.

Game Features:

  • Explosive Action-Adventure Platformer: Evolving the platforming genre by adding RPG-lite elements with player agency to play as you like, whether aggressively or passively. Pickpocket your enemies, loot lockers, sift through trash cans, and find hidden areas to acquire resources. Exchange resources at vending machines to get products that give you more agency in how you chose to conquer the game’s many challenges. Acquire recipes to craft tools and weapons to use against opposing forces or solve problems. Arm your followers and watch the revolution begin.
  • Epicness: This isn’t a traditional 2D side scrolling platformer. Soulstorm is a 2.9D action-adventure platformer with 15 hours of gameplay, and dozens more for achievement hunters and perfectionists. Epic environments with massive scale to explore by going into the world, rather than being limited to the traditional side scrolling platformer sense.
  • Start a Revolution: A dark storyline with a twisted sense of humor that shines a light on the ironies that exist in the human condition. As a slave to big business, a cog in the corporate machine being grinded to death, Abe tries to save them all and along the way he goes from a nobody to potentially starting a global revolution.
  • Completionists: Can you save every single Mudokon in the game (there are more than 1,000)? Can you achieve the best ending and unlock the final two playable levels? Can you scavenge every trash can and locker, kill or safely apprehend every antagonist, find every hidden area, collect every jelly? 3+m players have had the opportunity to do it…will you be the first to do it on Xbox?
  • Multiple Endings: Soulstorm has 15 levels, with two additional unlockable levels at the end of the game. There are 4 types of endings in the game, each depending on your Quarma. At the end of each individual level, you receive a Quarma score, which is based on the number of Mudokons you save. If you succeed in saving enough Mudokons throughout all the levels, you’ll get one of the good endings. But beware: if your Quarma score isn’t high enough, you’ll get a more… dire fate!

An improved gameplay experience

Since Soulstorm first launched on April 6, Oddworld Inhabitants have been listening to players’ feedback and suggestions and released seven updates to enhance the game’s experience. They are thrilled to say Oddworld: Soulstorm’s gameplay has been refined on all platforms through fixes, removal of bugs, level design and balance adjustments, as well as quality of life improvements. No game is bug free, but the version that players can download right now for PS5, PS4, and Epic Games Store is one the studio is proud of and believes they will enjoy. Same goes for the PS5 and PS4 physical versions that can be found at retailers. The Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One versions will have the same fixes already implemented.

About Oddworld: Soulstorm

Oddworld: Soulstorm is the bigger, badder, bolder action-adventure platforming sequel to the renowned video game series, and the explosive second installment in the quintology. You play as Abe, the reluctant Mudokon hero whose actions sparked an uprising and now must lead his fellow Mudokons in their fight for freedom against the Magog Cartel and the planet’s ruling power.

Abe will struggle for survival against the planet’s ruling and well-funded power. They are armed with all means of oppression, from propaganda to biological to ruthless deadly force.

Explore massive cinematic scale and 2.9D environments filled with breathtaking visuals. Scavenge for supplies, craft weapons, arm your followers, solve puzzles, and attempt to safely deliver all of Abe’s 1,000+ followers to freedom.

Oddworld: Soulstorm is currently available on the Epic Games Store for PC. The physical and digital PS5 and PS4 versions are available right now.  It is in development for Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One consoles.

Get Ready For World Domination With Evil Genius 2 Coming To Consoles Later This Year

Rebellion, one of Europe’s most successful independent studios, has today announced that its acclaimed villainy simulator, Evil Genius 2, is coming to consoles later this year. Launching on Xbox Game Pass, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 4/5 in Q4 2021, Evil Genius 2 puts you in the shoes of the ultimate bad guy as you plot, scheme and execute your plans for world domination.

Evil Genius 2 lets you unleash your own unique brand of super-villainy upon humanity. Build your lair, recruit and train a workforce of loyal minions and powerful henchmen to defend your base from the meddling Forces of Justice.

Evil Genius 2 launched on PC earlier this year to critical acclaim.

The console release of Evil Genius 2 will bring the joy of villainy to an even bigger audience when it comes to Xbox Game Pass, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 4 and 5 in Q4 2021.

For more information about Evil Genius 2 please visit EvilGeniusGame.com and follow the game on social media: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

Sam & Max Save the World Remastered now available for Xbox

Great grinning head of John the Baptist in a porkpie hat stuffed in a rhinestone bowling bag! Sam & Max are back on Xbox!

The Xbox One version of Sam & Max Save the World was just revealed in this morning’s ID@Xbox Twitch showcase and is available right now. The game sells for $19.99 or equivalent in local currency.

Sam & Max Save the World, a comedy adventure based on the dog and rabbity-thing crime fighting duo created by Steve Purcell, was the first true episodic game. Telltale Games originally released the six-episode season on PC between October 2006 and April 2007. The game later came to Xbox 360 in 2009.

When Telltale closed its doors in 2018, a small group of the original team acquired the game rights and remastered the season with higher resolution graphics, improved audio, new musical tracks, and a number of other enhancements. A full list of changes in the remastered version can be viewed here.

Today’s Xbox One release joins PC and Nintendo Switch versions that came out in December.

The Story
It’s just another day at the office for the self-proclaimed Freelance Police when the Commissioner calls in with a disturbing report: former child stars are running amok in the street! What starts as an open-and-shut case of idiotic vandalism grows into an all-out conspiracy as Sam and Max encounter one miscreant after another who have been mysteriously hypnotized. (You can tell from the “spinny thing” they do with their eyes.)

Who’s the source of this malfeasance, and what is their dastardly plan? Cracking this case will require Sam’s nose for detective work, Max’s lack of conscience, an assortment of inventory items, and a little help from neighbors Sybil Pandemik, Bosco, and Jimmy Two-Teeth. From Sam & Max’s street to the White House lawn, inside the internet, and all the way to the moon, this baffling mystery gets weirder and funnier as it unfolds.

Cyberpunk Action-shooter RPG ‘The Ascent’ blasts onto Xbox and PC today

You belong to The Ascent Group, but can you survive without it? Publisher Curve Digital and Swedish indie studio Neon Giant are excited to invite gamers to make their mark in the brave new world of Veles, as the studio’s highly anticipated debut title The Ascent launches today on PC, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One and Xbox Game Pass at 6pm BST / 7pm CEST / 10am PDT.

A solo and co-op action-shooter RPG set in a sci-fi cyberpunk world, The Ascent is the first title from Neon Giant, a new 12-person studio composed of games industry veterans who were some of the minds behind iconic AAA titles such as the Gears of War, Bulletstorm and Wolfenstein franchises.

The Ascent sees players dive into ‘The Ascent Group’ arcology, a self-contained corporate-run metropolis, stretching high into the sky and filled with creatures from all over the galaxy. Taking on the role of an indentured worker, the world starts to go haywire when The Ascent Group shuts down for unknown reasons. Life becomes a case of survival, with rival corporations and crime syndicates looking to fill the empty space and players having to take up arms to hold them off.

About three years ago we founded Neon Giant; a small game dev studio with the belief that with the right focus and mindset, even just a few people can create grand experiences and high quality games,” said Tor Frick, Creative Director and co-founder of Neon Giant. “We have a passion for creating living worlds and action gameplay – it’s in our DNA from our shared history in the industry and The Ascent is the result of our team’s passion and hard work.”

Fellow co-founder and Creative Director of the studio Arcade Berg added: “In The Ascent you start off at the bottom of the food chain – that’s just the life of an indent – but as you progress, you will get to grow more powerful, find shiny guns, toys and augmentations making you able to live out your twisted power fantasies – if you choose – with robot tentacles coming out of your back. We will take you across the world, wide and high, in a megacity filled with turmoil and introduce you to characters who have found ways to thrive in this environment. We hope our game is as fun and exciting for you playing it as it was for us to make it.”

About The Ascent

The Ascent offers players the chance to step into an action-orientated sci-fi RPG powered by Unreal Engine that takes the genre to new levels, available to play in both single-player and up to four-player co-op. The game will target 60 fps and have full 4K support on the Xbox Series X, offering amazing gameplay performance for new generation console players.

Features:

  • A free-roam play style in a cyberpunk inspired dystopian world
  • Classic RPG mechanics to enable players to build up their character including cyberware, augmentations and looting
  • An unprecedented sense of verticality within its world, with different levels and platforms discernible within play
  • Double-aim mechanic enables players to utilise the full screen and choose between multiple targets anywhere in the environment
  • A narrative-led adventure playable in single and up to four-player co-op modes

The Ascent is now available on Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One consoles and PC and Xbox Game Pass.

Buy today on Xbox: https://www.xbox.com/en-US/games/the-ascent

Buy today on PC: https://store.steampowered.com/app/979690/The_Ascent/

Game price: £24.99 / $29.99 / €29.99