From Dust seems like the most unlikely title to come from a studio whose recent library is made of blockbuster franchises. With series like Assassin’s Creed, Splinter Cell, Prince of Persia, and Rayman in its arsenal Ubisoft shows no signs of slowing down. But when the company released its downloadable title From Dust the game made a big splash by separating itself from other action-oriented titles the studio usually scribes to.
Magicka is an action role-playing game for players that don’t normally play action role-playing games. It lends its success for three very distinct reasons: its humor, its simplicity, and its accessibility. Initially developed by eight students at the Lulea University of Technology in Sweden, which would later become Arrowhead Game Studios, this is a game meant to be played with a mouse in one hand and a keyboard in the other, but not in the way you think. The game draws upon inspiration from titles like Warhammer and Diablo with its roots entrenched in Norse mythology, albeit however loosely.
For those who’ve never played Magicka let me present you with a primer. Players take on the role of wizards allowing for simultaneous co-operative play using available elements (Q,W,E,P controls water, life, shield, and cold respectively, and A,S,D,F controls lightning, arcane, earth, and fire respectively) to create spells. Spells are created through any number of element combinations. For instance, combining shield with ice creates an ice shield while combining ice and arcane creates an arcane coldbeam. But there are drawbacks. The more elements you have charged the slower your characters moves. Similarly, if you cross two contrasting elements together (lightning/water, arcane/life, etc.) you can do serious damage to yourself and your friends. Having said that, I take issue with calling this an action role-playing game because Magicka differs from its genre forebearers in very distinct and notable ways. There’s no class structure or leveling system. There’s also no limit to the amount of magic used with a “mana-bar” and its acquisition of goods and materials during gameplay is scant at best.
Now I can’t go further in this retrospective without talking about Magicka’s humor. Firstly, when characters talk they speak in a garbled Scandinavian-dialect akin to the Swedish Chef from the Muppets, more to do with how Americans think Swedish people sound rather than actual Swedish. There’s also no shortage of pop-culture references in-game that are bound to put a smile on your face. At one point you come across a mourning Connor McCloud before decapitating him with his own sword and receiving a “There can be only one!” achievement, a clear reference to the movie Highlander. This humor isn’t lost in its first expansion either, Magicka Vietnam, which takes historical liberties by putting our wizard characters in war-torn 1960s Vietnam amidst Vietcong-themed enemies.
According to its developers, Magicka sold over 200,000 units in its first two weeks and it’s no secret why. It’s charm, whimsy, and tongue-in-cheek humor helped propel this game to success merely through word-of-mouth, and while the game emphasizes enjoyment over strategy, simplicity over complexity, and accessibility over specificity, it’s still an amazing achievement that’s more than worth your time.
After franchises like Guitar Hero and Rock Band began to lose their luster towards the end of the decade, developers waited with baited breath for the next big trend in gaming. Now dance games are nothing new. The first Dance Dance Revolution arcades were released in North America back in 1999 (I remember fondly playing my first round of DDR at Sega City’s Playdium in downtown Toronto) as well as subsequent iterations of the game later released on the PS2 (and having to grudgingly drag the dance mat out of the closet every time I wanted to play).
I often wonder what the Kinect’s future would’ve been had it not been for Dance Central. I imagine it’d act as a little more than a paperweight with the ability to access the Xbox360?s dashboard without having to reach for a controller. There’s no denying that this franchise helped push Microsoft’s new technology off the shelves, but beyond the hardware itself Dance Central showcases the true potential of a game that doesn’t require a tangible controller. Oh sure there are imitators, and franchises like Just Dance and Everybody Dance shows no signs of slowing down. But Dance Central delivered something gamers had been waiting for for years, the chance to experience a full-motion dance game without the necessity of a mat or controller.
In the game, players learn choreographed dance moves via one of eight in-game avatars. If the player steps out of sync with the music; doesn’t execute a dance move properly; or misses a dance move completely, that body part will highlight red on their avatar. Now the game isn’t perfect. There’s no online multiplayer in the first game or the ability for two players to dance at the same time (most of these shortcomings are remedied in its sequel), however with over 650 individual dance moves, 90 dance routines, and 32 songs on each game’s disc (with 32 DLC songs available for Dance Central and 44 new songs available in Dance Central 2), there’s no shortage of fun to be had with either title.
What people tend to forget is that Dance Central isn’t solely a dance game but a synergy of both music games and exercise games, capitalizing on widely successful karaoke titles like SingStar and the health-conscious sensibilities of games like Wii fit. I’m probably reading too much into this franchise at this point. These games are simply an all-around fun experience to enjoy by yourself or with friends. The soundtrack isn’t pigeonholed to the most popular hits of today but it diverse and eclectic, spanning as far back as the disco era to modern artists like Pitbull, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, and Usher.
Believe it or not this game does actually make you a better dancer. At first you might feel hesitant but rest assured once you complete your first dance number all of those reservations melt away. Sure you’ll look ridiculous doing it but personally it’s the best kind of ridiculousness.
When a ninja is confronted with a horde of zombies does he:
a) Sneak around, avoiding detection
b) Use awesome ninja tools to defeat the zombies
c) Stops worrying about ninjas and starts being awesome.
d) All of the above
The answer, of course, is D. The newest DLC for Capcom’s Dead Rising 2 gets you to bring out your inner ninja, with new weapons, costumes and skills. The Ninja Skill Pack is available on XBLA and PSN right now.
That’s right folks the fine gents from Capcom’s press center was more than happy to share with us this exciting news.
Capcom announced that an updated season of MotoGP will be available for the XBox Live and the PSN, in North America. Along with the update they will be a brand new DLC (downloadable content) release. But the best part of this DLC is that it’s free! That’s right ladies and gentleman the first MotoGp 09/10 DLC pack will be cost you nothing. Wondering what’s in it? Well wait no more because we’ve got the info for you right here, right now.
The DLC will include: all the rider, bike, and team livery updates from this current season of MotoGP. But that’s not all, you’ll also be able to get the brand spanking new Silverstone ( United Kingdom) track.
So what are you waiting for folks! Get online now and start your downloading!