Game Review Bits

Day of The Tentacle RemasteredWith the limitations of graphical power back in the day, a great story delivered deep gaming experiences. And if it was funny, twisted and weird – even better. Leave it up to Double Fine Productions to take us back to revisit an old, odd gaming friend – Day of the Tentacle. Double Fine Productions treats gamers this week to a revisiting of the 1993 release with Day of the Tentacle Remastered. The Double Fine/LucasArts classic is a follow-up to one of the fondest gaming memories back in the day, kicked off by Maniac Mansion. If you missed out on it, no worries. There is a built in playable version of Maniac Mansion should you seek it. And if you played it (or like me, have foggy memories with age), there are sweet upgrades to be found in Day of the Tentacle Remastered. Day of the Tentacle Remastered remains true to its core, crazy self while offering bonuses and fun to make it worth the trip in time.

Day of The Tentacle Remastered

Day of the Tentacle centers around a cast of quirky characters out to save the world from the devious plans of a rouge Purple Tentacle. Purple Tentacle sets off for world domination following a new found awareness after drinking toxic material. The player takes on the roles of Bernard, Hoagie and Laverne with the aid of Dr. Fred Edison. Each character is cast off in a different period of time, following a freak time traveling accident with Dr. Fred’s “Chron-o-Johns”. To reunite the gang, and foil Purple Tentacle, the player must solve riddles across the different periods of time. And so ensues a colorful comic adventure with crazy logic. It’s very Back To The Future-esque, where changes in one time period affect another. Being a LucasArts game (RIP!), there are some fun Star Wars references you will find, along with other references to Double Fine Productions graphic adventure games. Undoubtedly fun little nods throughout (and you may get a little bit of historic schooling from The Revolutionary era!).

Day of The Tentacle Remastered

Players have the option of using the old school SCUMM interface (pick up, pull, give, etc.) or using the icon based wheel menu.  Being that this was originally developed for computer platforms, the environment interaction was mouse-controlled point and click. On the PS4, interaction works with a crosshair controlled by thumbsticks. It worked better than I had anticipated, although it was hard to let go of the more obvious old school way of clicking on verbs.

Day of The Tentacle Remastered

Day of the Tentacle Remastered takes you on an instant gaming time-warp. On the PS4, with a press of the TouchPad, the graphics and audio dynamically change back to the 1993 pixel version of Day of The Tentacle. It’s fun to see how the original pixel art graphics compare to the smooth, cartoony version of the remaster as well as how the music changes (yes, there was a time where we had to deal with SoundBlaster audio card upgrades).

As for bonus features, Day of the Tentacle Remastered is packed with behind-the-scenes goodies. There is an optional audio developer commentary (warranting at least a second play through!) and tons of unlockable concept art.  For the PlayStation release of Day of the Tentacle Remastered, it is a Cross-Buy game so you can enjoy the crispy, color tentacles on the PS4 and PS Vita.

Day of The Tentacle Remastered

Day of the Tentacle Remastered still stands out on its own for its twisted characters, quirky humor, challenging puzzles and unique art style. It is a change of pace from many of the games out there today and definitely worth revisiting in this new release. Whether you are too young, or too old, to remember, Double Fine Productions delivers a beautiful remake that even Purple Tentacle would want to get its newfound mitts on. Recommended retro-remake fun! Take the trip.

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TRANSFORMERS: Devastation_20151025071510

Activision has put out a pretty consistent stream of Transformers games, each one getting progressively better in graphic detail and gameplay. After playing several of the last couple of Transformers games, how can the games continue to be outdone? The answer is take it back to Transformers G1 era with Transformers Devastation. Leave it to PlatinumGames to deliver a strikingly faithful throwback to the original Transformers cartoons. It doesn’t get better than this, playing the Transformers instead of just watching them on TV.

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For the plot line, I won’t spoil it for you but you can pretty much bet that it’s the usual nefarious ways of Megatron that are behind the incursion. Kick it off with the most well known Autobots, including Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Grimlock and more. Key Decepticons are here, ranging from favorites such Megatron, Starscream and Soundwave, all in faithful character with their personalities intact.

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The voice acting is pretty spot-on to what the original cartoons were, because the original TV series voice actors are here. The faithful cartoon style throws you back to the simple, straight-up Generation 1 nostalgia where Transformers began. Growing up at the peak of the Transformers cartoon, it was joyful hearing those actors again and seeing the cartoon-like graphics. The rock/metal/synth-laden music captures the 80s era cartoon as well, thanks to Vince DeCola’s scoring of the game. What a treat. It took some time, but here is truly the Transformers game as how it was meant to be experienced.

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Transformers Devastation takes place in a fast-paced third-person perspective, putting you in the role of the Autobots. You are able to switch-up and decide whom you would like to use, making gameplay controls and weapon use varied. Speaking of weapons, there are plenty to find, upgrade and research – from blades, lasers, missiles and one of my favorites – Soundwave’s Loudspeaker blaster!  Abilities of your select Autobot can be upgraded as well.

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Missions take place on linear levels, although some offer some optional missions. There’s standard fodder Decepticon soldiers, mid-level Decepticon bosses and some huge boss battles (where multiple Decepticons combine into a larger Transformer such as Devastator). Switching to robot and vehicle form, or dinosaur form for Grimlock, happens at the press of the trigger. Expect several high speed pursuits or vehicle slamming special moves, each unique to the individual Autobot.

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In PlatinumGames’ style (such as in Vanquish) the gameplay perspective changes up, making for some arcade gameplay shooter levels and platform gaming. A fun change up to the primary third-person action view.

Transformers Devastation is a single-player game. You can choose how speedily or deep you want to digest this candy. Where the extended game life comes in is with the Challenge Missions, Autobot upgrades, weapon unlocks, in-game side missions, difficulty settings and unlocking concept art hidden throughout levels. The biggest joy and value that Transformers Devastation offers is in it being a very faithful and fun adaptation of the cartoon classic. Kudos to PlatinumGames for making such a fun and bold throwback to the original Transformers. If you were a fan of the Transformers cartoons that started it all, you do not want to miss out on Transformers Devastation. Roll out!

TRANSFORMERS: Devastation_20151025155356

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Transformers Devastation is available for the PlayStation 4 , Xbox One, PS3 and Xbox 360. This review was done on the PS4 platform. Disclosure: Activision provided GamingBits.com a review code for Transformers Devastation.

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The Witcher 3:Wild Hunt

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is the new gold-standard in action role-playing games. If you enjoy fantasy adventures or even just open world games with awesome storylines, The Witcher 3 is definitely worth owning. The game is vast in areas to explore, has some incredible graphic fidelity, entertains with great character acting and entrancing background music, is highly customizable and unique to each player, and… well, the list goes on and on as to why I highly recommend The Witcher 3. Too vast to capture on video, I decided to share my adventures through the screenshots I took during my complete playthrough of The Witcher 3. Click the link below to flip through over 100 screens and please read the brief captions for a little explanation and details on The Witcher 3. For those of you looking for a quick number, 5 out 5, 10 out of 10 – yes, yes, it is excellent and gaming perfection. Ok, so there are minor things you can point out in the game but the great far outweighs the minor things you may come across. The Witcher 3 is a true labor of love. Don’t let the “3” in the game turn you away either. There is plenty of story and back story to take in. No prior Witcher game experiences are required to enjoy the adventure. See and read more below for a review of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt!

Flip through the screen by screen review here (no spoilers!).

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is available for the PS4, Xbox One and PC. DO IT!

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V-MODA Crossfade M-100 Headphones

V-MODA Crossfade M-100 review

In search of headphones that deliver a one-two punch of sound clarity and slick design? Bam-bam! VMODA’s Crossfade M-100 headphones may be just what you are looking for, with that and more. The Crossfade M-100 headphones deliver a thoughtful design piece out of the package, with optional touches of unique audio and visual customization. Whether you are looking to punch-up the power of an immersive gaming experience or get solitary in some music, the versatile offerings of VMODA’s M-100 headphones will certainly please. Read on and find out what makes the Crossfade M-100 headphones such a unique and complete audio experience.



Big audio packed in a little package

You know you are in for a unique headset from the onset of the M-100’s package. Snip the fabric ribbon on the back of the surprisingly compact package to reveal the M-100 exoskeleton hard case.



Tough exoskeleton clamshell case

The M-100 headphones’s clever collapsing design affords it the ability to fit securely and be well protected in the case. A curious clamshell design spares no space to make the full-sized headphones as compact as possible. And it keeps it looking slick, yet discreet, while on the go. The clamshell case of the M-100 “Shadow” colored model has a black matte finish and a red cloth interior with a gourd buckle to stow.


Case accommodates collapsed headset and 2 cables

Two interior straps in the case accommodate the included SpeakEasy Mic audio cable and the SharePlay audio cable. While we are on the subject of the M-100’s audio cables, it is worth noting that they are gold-plated and boast an endurance of being bendable “1 million times (100x industry standard)”.



Included SharePlay audio cable

They certainly feel very durable, being of Kevlar. A 45-degree audio plug on them makes it a snap to plug in. The unobtrusive mic and mic control button on the SpeakEasy Mic audio cable gives easy access to speech and audio controls when chatting online or using the headset with a mobile phone. The SharePlay cable allows a friend to plug into your audio feed. Ports on both the left and right side of the headphones allow for one cable, or both, to be plugged in.


Folded headset view
Folded headset view

So the meat is in the audio and how does the M-100 deliver? The Crossfade M-100’s operating frequency of 5Hz-30kHz basically means you get a broad range of sound to experience and allows you to pick up on waveforms which you may not have picked up on before. What is distinguished in the M-100 is a crystalline audio clarity without over-compromising bass sounds. It is really a pleasure to hear voices, singers and highs so clear. Game audio was awesome. Having gameplay sessions in The Witcher 3 on the PS4 with the M-100 were exceptional. When you opt to hear audio from a headset over your sound system when gaming, you know its good! The M-100s really bring the voice acting and music to the forefront. All aspects of audio, from low to mid-range to high are delivered in such a high definition, allowing a new appreciation for music. Writing about the sound experience from the Crossfade M-100 is hard to do it justice as the sound quality is so rich and clear – it must be experienced firsthand.


Cushioned headphones
Cushioned over-ear headphones

There is a nice comfort level and noise isolation given by the over-ear pieces. Exterior noises are barred and those around you will not be disturbed by leaking audio. The M-100s are lightweight and well padded around the ears, but I did notice a slight tension coming from the headband. It was somewhat subtle but after an extended use, if I felt any slight discomfort it was from the pressure at the headband and a bit of pressure around the ear pieces.


Headset joint
Headset joint

The Crossfade M-100 packs in the customization options while keeping them slick. There is an included 1/4 24k gold plated adapter and the aforementioned mic and audio sharing cables.  I also tried out the optional CoilPro extended cable, which really gives great flexibility and range in movement for you DJs and audiophiles. An optional BoomPro Microphone is also offered by V-MODA, should you be looking for a mic in an adjustable format rather than on the cable itself.


Headset with extension
Headset with optional CoilPro audio extension cable

In terms of looks, you can even take the M-100 headphones further with cool customization. Who needs an obligatory “b” circle logo design (ahem) championing someone else’s brand when you can champion your own? Wear your gaming clan logo proudly with the optional custom metal earphone plates. The “custom shields” are available for ordering online (here from VMODA). The colored and brushed metal look will accent whatever design you want to show off.



V-MODA Crossfade M-100 Headset profile. Your logo here!

VMODA’s Crossfade M-100 headphones have a $299.99 MSRP. Consider it an investment in an exceptional and versatile audio experience. The M-100s are toward the higher end of audio headsets, competing with other luxury headset brands. What takes them up a notch beyond the amazing sound offered is the slick, compact design and customization options. Proudly wear the M-100’s across all your audio experiences. Be it in gaming, listening to music or chatting with friends and family. These are truly exemplary headphones! 10 out of 10. VMODA’s Crossfade M-100 headphones deliver lush audio soundscapes unlike any other and showcases it in style.



What’s in the Crossfade M-100 box

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For more information on the VMODA Crossfade M-100 headphones, visit the official website at v-moda.com/crossfade-m-100.

Thanks to V-MODA for making this review possible by providing product sample.

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Logo

There are not enough games that are powered by music. I don’t mean the games where you play or dance to a list of pre-selected songs, but games where you play against the music tracks you load in. Beat Hazard and Audiosurf are great examples of this, as each session is generated by the tempo and overall complexity of the song you chose. Drive Any Track (DAT) from FOAM Entertainment and Firebrand Games is an excellent addition to the scarce genre of music powered games. DAT features very fast paced, frantic at times, gameplay with amazingly tight controls and visuals that will captivate anyone playing or watching. Fueled by the MEGA (Music Environment Gaming Algorithm) Engine, this Early Access game has everything it needs to become among the greatest music based indie games.

Upon launching DAT, you are presented with a menu that is very easy to navigate and makes it quick to get into the action. You choose your song, pick a vehicle to race with and, voila, you’re racing your music.

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A straight to the point menu. Clicking on “New Track” brings up a window to navigate to your music.

I have to admit, when I loaded up my first song into the game I was not immediately sold on it. Unlike most racing games where you start the race idling, you are launched immediately at top speed into a three-beat countdown in time with the song. I chose a ridiculously fast Happy Hardcore song so this caught me way off guard. I could not read the on-screen instructions as I was distracted with my runaway vehicle and very pretty flashing colors everywhere. On top of this I was failing to grasp the controls because I think I was trying to play it like Mario Kart which I quickly learned, you cannot do. I was hitting every barrier and launching off the track with every jump and it was not until about half way through my first song where I figured out what you had to do. Also, dropping use of the keyboard and plugging in an Xbox controller to play made me finally understand how the game handles.

There are a series of electrified lines that are traveling the track with you, which represent the “Sync” of the song. If you slow down by hitting barriers or walls you will fall behind the first Sync area, which is between the first two Sync lines. This means you are a bar behind the song and will earn less points. When you either fall too far out of sync, wipe out or fly off the track, the game will re-sync you just behind the first two sync lines which is a very welcome feature since trying to catch up to the sync lines would otherwise be near impossible. Along the tracks there are small boxes that, when hit, fill a meter displayed on your vehicle which represents your boost ability. When the meter is filled you can propel yourself forward with a button press to catch up with the sync lines or launch ahead into the “Super Sync” area, which gains you more points. The stay-in-sync gameplay is very well implemented and is incredibly fun.

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Falling out of sync after hitting a barrier. You can see the first sync line further down the track.

Without realizing it I ended up playing DAT for four straight hours after my first song and I was hooked. DAT  is very easy to get lost in. The track pulses along with the beat, and most genres of songs have their own beautiful visual aesthetic. The actual handling of the driving feels really responsive and the drifting works very well and is similar to drifting in the Gran Turismo games.

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Blue and purple elongated hexagon style for Dance and Classical songs.

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Yellow and orange block style for Rap, Hip Hop and Jazz songs.

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Black and red angled style for Rock and Metal songs

The track, as far as I can tell, is loosely generated on the song provided. However, there were many times where there was a barrier, loop, spiral or jump section that I couldn’t really place in the song as a drop or an upbeat section. I think it works better for some songs over others. Either way, because you are driving so fast on these tracks, the fact that they sometimes don’t match to the song isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You need to stay very alert when playing as there are many times where twitch reaction is required to save yourself, for better or for worse. Due to the snaking of the track and the camera placement, it is sometime impossible to see or react in time to avoid barriers or jumps in front of you. Infrequently there will also be jumps that, based on your trajectory, force you to land on barriers, fall through a jump gap or launch you into the abyss as the track turns sharply either direction immediately after the jump. There were a couple of times that I also landed so hard after descending from a jump that the shock flipped my car upside down causing me to wipe out. These are more of a common occurrence in higher than three star difficulty tracks and can be pretty frustrating, especially when you are doing very well on a song and something unfair messes up your run.

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Is there a barrier ahead? Who knows!

Along with the Boost Boxes, there are coins that litter the track. You are awarded the coins you snag during the race plus additional coins at completion of the track.

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My cash out of coins after a race. I’m rich!

Coins are used to purchase additional vehicles or style packs for each vehicle in the garage. I like the inclusion of multiple vehicles and the ability to change their appearance although I could not figure out if the differing vehicles had unique attributes. They all felt the same when handling them and the speeds felt identical as well. Either way, there is a plethora of immaculately designed vehicles ranging from a sports car, to an SUV, to a pick-up truck.

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Using my coins to buy a new car! Exciting!

At the end of a race you are awarded experience which goes towards your in-game level. It was unapparent to me what the point of the leveling system was. There is a possibility that it will be used for ranking in the highscore leaderboard feature that is already implemented. I love the inclusion of the leaderboard as it immediately makes the game competitive. Every song that has a track generated for the first time will also have the name of the user who created it. This is the same track that everyone who plays the song will race on. Each track has a worldwide top five ranking. If you achieve the highest score on the track, the game will generate a ghost of your race and put in online for everyone to see or race against. One thing to note about the ghost is it is completely opaque. I ran into a couple instances where a ghost obstructed my view from a jump or barrier making me hit it or wipe out. Lowering the opacity of the ghost would help this tremendously.

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Opaque ghost threatens your eyesight.

Another really neat feature is the first person mode while racing. Tapping the Y button on the Xbox controller enables this mode which allows for an entirely new playing style. The first person mode feels faster than the regular play because you are closer to the ground but is just as gorgeous.

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First person mode in its finest.

There is one major drawback to the first person play. The camera spins and angles itself with the car making some jumps and spirals to be very confusing and incredibly tough to land as the track goes out of sight. If the developers fix it so that the camera will always point towards the ground when you are airborne, you would easily be able to recover and land safely on the track.

Drive Any Track is an incredibly fun thrill ride. FOAM Entertainment and Firebrand Games have created a welcome addition to the music powered genre of games. It has already offered me hours upon hours of fun gameplay, and I will probably continue replaying it for a very long time; especially because the full version is targeted for release later this year with even more features. I look forward to the future of this game after a few of the aforementioned things have been fixed and the community becomes involved with the feedback process. The foundation has been set and is as strong as it possibly can be. If you like music based gameplay, you need to pick this gem up.

Review Score: 8/10

Pros:

  • Very fast and fun racing gameplay
  • Tight driving and drifting controls
  • Sync gameplay feature implemented very well
  • Beautiful graphics that differ between other games
  • Online leaderboard, ranking system and race against ghosts
  • Infinitely replayable as long as you have music to play with

Cons:

  • Camera placement makes for some unfair disadvantages
  • Some jumps lead to unavoidable wipe outs
  • First person camera is broken
  • Ghosts can obstruct your vision of the track
  • Leveling up has no point?

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