Category Archives: Gaming

Bonesaw Podcast Episode 53: Jeff Wittenhagen

We return from a long absence with video game journalist, eight time author, podcaster, and founder of Hagen’s Alley Book’s, Jeff Wittenhagen. Jeff talks his books, his love of the games, and more.

Check Jeff out at www.hagensalley.com.

Donate to our Patreon: www.patreon.com/thebonesaw.

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F*ck Mondays! Episode 37: Criticizing The Critics

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Chris and Jon call out the critics for their most heinous Guardians of the Galaxy 2 reviews and praise the fans for sticking to their guns. Also spoken about are Fox’s next X-Men related projects and more.

Donate to our Patreon: www.patreon.com/thebonesaw.

Yooka-Laylee: Familiar and Fulfilling

by Robert Orr

The year is 1998, and the Nintendo 64 is one of the hottest video game consoles on the market.

Coming off the success of Goldeneye, RareWare launches one of the greatest platformers of all time in Banjo-Kazooie. The game featured hilarious dialogue, endearing characters, vibrant graphics, and most importantly of all, exciting and rewarding gameplay. Rare followed up with a number of classics, which include a much loved sequel (aptly named Banjo-Tooie), Donkey Kong 64, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, and Perfect Dark. Soon after, Nintendo announced the Gamecube, and rumors began circulating of what Rare’s next classic would be. Banjo-Threeie was teased numerous times, but the wait continued.

However, Rare and Nintendo’s partnership ended, and the company was acquired by Microsoft. Rare began developing games for the Xbox and later Xbox 360. Some were good, some were bad, but many were left wondering if Banjo-Threeie would ever see the light of day.

Eventually, news of a new Banjo-Kazooie game (Nuts and Bolts) finally surfaced. When the game was finally released, many fans were disappointed, as the classic platforming gameplay of the originals was replaced with a strange vehicle building quasi-sandbox. Suffice to say, the game was not well received by fans and critics alike, and many feared there would never be a true sequel to Banjo-Kazooie.

In 2012, a group of game designers, all veterans of RareWare’s heyday, decided to come together and form a new company, which would eventually be known as Playtonic Games. A Kickstarter for their newest endeavor, a true spiritual successor to RareWare’s greatest hit platformers, was successfully funded – a game called Yooka-Laylee.

Much like its precursors, Yooka-Laylee is a platforming game with a focus on collecting various items throughout large open worlds. Some of these items are used to buy new moves to help the titular heroes reach new areas of the game previously unreachable.

The main collectible, Pagies, are similar to Banjo-Kazooie’s Jiggies. Pagies are used to unlock new levels, and also “expand” existing levels, a new feature unique to Yooka-Laylee. Levels initially start off kind of small, but by paying a certain amount of extra Pagies (depending on the level), new sections of the level become available for the player to explore. Pagies are collected by completing various challenges throughout the level, which include completing puzzles and platforming challenges, defeating bosses, and simple exploration.

There’s also Ghost Writers, which are a bit tougher to collect, as they must be defeated and/or captured using the various special moves acquired throughout the game. There are additional unique items to be collected, which can be used in various ways in each level.

The levels themselves are huge. Banjo-Kazooie and Tooie were both known for their large levels (especially for the N64 era), but Yooka-Laylee takes it to the next level. With the edition of the expand feature, levels go from average-sized to gigantic worlds with a plethora of secrets. Each level is accessed through the hub world, Hivory Towers – this game’s analogue to Gruntilda’s Castle. Hivory Towers is massive in itself, with dozens of branching paths and secrets to be found. Aside from being the area where all the worlds are contained, Hivory Towers also serves as its own unique level, with various hidden collectibles and puzzles the player must complete in order to advance.

The characters are endearing and funny. Yooka the chameleon serves as the level-headed voice of reason of the duo, while Laylee the bat is a comedic and slightly sardonic foil to that. The main boss of the game, Capital B., is a nefarious honeybee businessman, and much like Gruntilda from Banjo-Kazooie, mocks Yooka and Laylee as they progress throughout the hub world. Capital B.’s partner is a strange duck head in a jar named Dr. Quack, who acts as the bumbling sidekick, designing trivia games to try and slow the player down as they progress through the game.

Also much like its predecessors, Yooka-Laylee features many side characters, as pretty much every item and inanimate object in the game can actually talk, and each of these side characters will quickly become loved by the player.

Graphically, Yooka-Laylee is gorgeous, featuring vibrant colors, dynamic light and shadows, and amazing high-def textures. The character animations are fluid and smooth, and the various transformations and special abilities are all creatively designed. The levels, aside from their titanic topography, are beautiful and unique, spanning various environments, from a tropical paradise to a frozen tundra – and even a casino. As with everything else, these levels are colorful and visually appealing, and players may find themselves climbing to the highest point of each level to just admire the scenery.

There are however, a few performance hiccups, which is to be expected from a game this new, and will most likely be patched as time goes on. It has also been reported by individuals who received early copies of the game that the camera had some issues. However, a first day patch seems to have fixed whatever problems there were with the camera, and aside from a few areas where it can get a bit crazy, the camera control is fairly solid.

Overall, Yooka-Laylee is a well-designed game, and while it does have a few flaws, these are minor in comparison to all the positive aspects of the game. Veterans of the original RareWare classics on the N64 will love Yooka-Laylee, although the gameplay may seem a bit dated to younger players. That said, Yooka-Laylee really does bring something for everyone to the table, and even younger players will grow to love it with time. The gameplay is simple enough for anyone to pick up and play, but has enough difficulty that even seasoned players of the platforming genre will find themselves with quite a challenge in completing the levels.

For those Rare fans who’ve been waiting years for Banjo-Threeie, the wait is finally over, and although it isn’t a true Banjo-Kazooie sequel, Yooka-Laylee certainly fills that void.

Bonesaw Podcast: Episode 50 – Patrick Hickey Jr.

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In order to start a journey, you need someone to make an impact on your life. That person is our guest for our latest podcast, Patrick Hickey Jr. Hickey is an author, professor, and editor in-chief of reviewfix.com. We talk his upcoming video games book, journalism, and more.

Donate to our Patreon: www.patreon.com/thebonesaw.

Nintendo: To Switch, or Not to Switch?

Nintendo’s latest creation, the Switch launched Friday in North America, Japan, and Europe to the thrill of many who were able to get their hands on it.

That said, there will always be skeptics hesitant to grab the new console right away as well as those who wish to wait for reasons such as a price drop, early bugs to be removed, and a larger game catalog. Although it never hurts to wait, it also doesn’t hurt to wait in line and head home happy.

For starters, the console is extremely lightweight once fully assembled in the tablet (aka Wii-U mode) portion. When docked, the console itself fits seamlessly into the charging station, which connects to your TV. You’ll want to keep your Switch in this setting most of the time as it functions better in this state. When used in its tablet form, the Switch can be a tad slower, but not enough to throw off your game.

The controllers also attach and detach easily and function well. The infrared camera in the right portion of the controller (also known as the red side) surprisingly reacts well to weight detection and motion sensing, which you’ll discover after having played the 1-2-Switch title. The controls also respond well to other games such as Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove and the included launch title The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. When the two are detached, there’s also buttons on the side, making for a variety of ways to play.The Switch also comes with a controller frame for you to combine the two controllers to form a Gamecube-like controller as opposed to holding them like the Wii-motes.

Another interesting dynamic is how the Switch games are reverting back to cartridges. You can download other titles in the Nintendo e-store, but the main games are tiny cartridges are slightly larger than those used on the Game Boy Advanced. There’s also a slot for micro SD cards to increase your system’s memory.

Overall, the system performs well. The sound system is on-point, games don’t take long to load, and the graphics, while not the caliber of rivals Sony and Microsoft consoles, play to their strengths and hide their weaknesses (which really comes down to not being able to handle the processors the others have). Games are easy to play and the system hub is easy to navigate however the controllers are used.

At the end of the day, Nintendo continues to favor innovation over hardware upgrades with the Switch. By combining old concepts with new, the gaming giant competes with the market by thinking outside the box and choosing a franchise title to launch with their latest endeavor. Although the fear of the new and unknown will still see some gamers unable to make the switch, those that do will reap their rewards instantly.

 

 

F*ck Mondays! Episode 26: Luke Cage Hates Negan Too

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We just saw The Walking Dead season 7 premiere and we’re just as shocked as you are. We talk Dead, Luke Cage, the Nintendo Switch and more!

WARNING: MASSIVE SPOILERS!

F*ck Mondays! Episode 25: Comic Con and Cuddling Clowns

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We shoot on New York Comic Con and the crazy trailers shown at it. The boys also dispute cuddling for cash, a big upcoming UFC match and more.

F*ck Mondays! Episode 23: Who Needs The Emmy’s?

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Our hosts ramble about South Park, Stranger Things, gaming, Collin Kaepernick’s protest and more.

F*ck Mondays! Episode 18: Pokemon Goes to UFC 200

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In great detail, Chris and Jon discuss UFC 200, the sensations and dangers of Pokemon Go, and goings on in the Marvel comic universe. Chris details his first Uber experience.

Dark Souls III – Farewell to an Epic Friend

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FromSoftware’s titan of a series has finally come to an end; not with a whimper – but with a bang.

Dark Souls III arrived in April to the delight of millions of fans worldwide just itching to spew curse words at their TV’s. After an absence from Dark Souls II, FromSoftware’s main man Hidetaka Miyazaki returns to his rightful place as director of the project this time around (and it definitely shows). From the complex yet simple level design to the extremely deep combat mechanics, Miyazaki-san’s presence is most certainly felt in the latest (and final) installment.

Dark Souls III begins in the future of the Souls timeline, after Dark Souls II and well after Dark Souls. The cycle that players have been a part of since the beginning has gone askew, with different timelines and dimensions now all converging on one point. Dark Souls III’s plot can be very confusing to newcomers, especially those who have not played the previous installments and their respective DLCs, so it is definitely a good idea for those new to the series to at the very least read a plot synopsis up until this point. The story for the most part remains fairly open-ended (as the previous games have), so that the player can speculate and figure out the plot for themselves. By doing this, FromSoftware has managed to create a tight-knit community that is able to openly debate not only the mechanics of the game, but the plot as well.

The setting this time around is Lothric, which is clearly influenced by all the previous souls games, including Bloodborne and Demon Souls (two games with similar mechanics to Dark Souls but with different plots and settings). The level design is breathtaking, with plenty of gorgeous vistas that one can easily get lost in. Miyazaki’s influence is perhaps best felt in the level design, which shift away from the numerous checkpoints of Dark Souls II back to a more “shortcut” based design. Rather than having bonfires to rest at/warp to spread around everywhere, Souls III requires the player to be a bit more observant, looking for hidden paths, ladders and elevators that allow for massive skips in the level. The levels are also massive, with numerous branching paths and plenty of hidden secrets to explore.

Combat has also been changed again for DS III, taking elements from Dark Souls, DS II and even Bloodborne; creating a hybrid system which works very well. There does seem to be some balancing issues however, with magic, dark magic and miracles being slightly underpowered compared to previous installments. Pyromancy works very well and with a bunch of new spells mixed in with the classic favorites, there is definitely something for everyone. Weapons are also still a bit unbalanced, with early game strength weapons being almost useless versus the faster dexterity-based weapons. However, late-game really balances out the different weapon types, making numerous builds viable in late-game PvP.

One mechanic that still remains shrouded in mystery is the poise mechanic. In previous Souls games, poise was a measure of how many hits your character could take before you were “staggered.” In DS III however, it’s unclear exactly what poise does, as there doesn’t seem to be any difference in armor types when it comes to how fast someone is staggered. There is speculation among fans that poise somehow effects how many frames of “hyper armor” one has when doing certain moves, which makes the character temporarily unstaggerable (although it has not been confirmed or denied by FromSoftware yet). This mystery just adds to the mountain of information players are still attempting to sift through and decipher months after the initial release.

Another strong point of Dark Souls III is its multiplayer. Up to six player “phantoms” can be summoned at once, which is a mechanic originally introduced in Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin, but has since been improved upon. Depending on the area, hosts can summon up to three friends for co-op with two more slots open for other players to “invade.”

The way that covenants work has also been improved, with special equipable items to signify one’s covenant, making it easier to switch on the fly between your different covenants (covenants are factions within Souls that award you special items based on your co-op or player vs. player participation). Speaking of covenants, another improvement is the addition of the Mound Makers covenant (essentially a “neutral” covenant). In previous games, it was basically the host and his co-op phantoms versus any invading red phantoms. In DS III, the host can summon or be invaded by a purple phantom, who can either co-op with the host OR kill him. Purple phantoms also receive rewards for attacking other phantoms of any color, so it’s actually beneficial for them to keep the host alive. This adds a whole new layer to the multiplayer which was not present in the previous games. However, multiplayer does still have its quirks. Although greatly improved over the other games in the series, there is still some issues with lag which can effect the outcome of player duels. There has also been an ongoing problem with hackers on the PC version, with even innocent players being banned just for accidental interaction with hackers. FromSoft is currently still working on these problems and have been slowly improving the situation, so it’s likely within the next few months they will be fixed for the most part.

Overall, Dark Souls III is an amazing experience, both for fans of the series and newcomers. From the gorgeous levels to the extremely in-depth combat mechanics, there is something for any hardcore RPG player. Those craving a challenge will also love Dark Souls III. It pulls no punches in its difficulty level, harkening back to the days of the NES and games like the original Castlevania. With DLC currently in development, tons of replayabilty and awesome endgame content, Dark Souls III will certainly keep fans playing for quite a long time.