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Gnah's monster-poking puzzles head to Steam

Gnah, the head-turning puzzler from Montreal gaming collective KO-OP Mode, is coming to Steam for PC, Mac and Linux, complete with Steam Play, cloud saves and "maybe even controller support," the developer says. KO-OP Mode hasn't set a launch date, though Gnah has a release window of 2014.

In Gnah, players poke around the heads of giant monsters, interacting with their faces and then turning them around to mess about inside of their craniums, hoping to eventually find the exit. Playing with the inside of a monster head affects the outside, and playing with the outside changes the inside. All giant monsters are beautiful on the inside, of course.

Previous iterations of Gnah featured a tiny boy inside of the monsters' heads, but after playtesting, KO-OP Mode has decided to ditch the character in favor of liberated gameplay:

"When you were on the outside, you could manipulate any part of the monster, and when you'd flip to the inside, you could play as the kid and interact with objects within the kid's reach. Unfortunately this turned out to be not very fun – the more free-form play of the outside of the head was much more enjoyable and it was frustrating to switch to the kid and be limited to only what they could reach."

Gnah had a spot in the GDC Indie Megabooth, and responses to the gameplay tweaks were "awesome," KO-OP Mode says.
[Image: KO-OP Mode]

Kalypso unveils Tropico 5 Limited Special Edition, pre-orders now available


As if ruling your own banana republic with an iron fist wasn't tempting enough, publisher Kalypso has announced a swag-packed special edition of its upcoming island nation simulator Tropico 5.

Alongside the core game, Tropico 5 Limited Special Edition includes an additional map for Sandbox mode, an "authentic" Tropico passport, a postcard from the faux island and an El Presidente avatar costume. Best of all, you won't have to shell out extra cash for these items. According to Kalypso, the Tropico 5 Limited Special Edition will be available at no additional charge to anyone who pre-orders the game or purchases a boxed copy at launch.

If you'd prefer a digital copy, you can now pre-order Tropico from Steam or the Kalypso launcher. While this version will lack the items included in the Limited Special Edition of the game, the digital release comes with its own bonuses including a separate, exclusive map for Sandbox mode and a "Businessman" avatar costume. To further sweeten the pot, those who pre-order Tropico 5 before May 23 will receive a 10 percent discount, though that price break jumps to 15 percent if you order the game directly through Kalypso.

Tropico 5 is slated to make its PC debut on May 23, with Xbox 360 and Mac incarnations following at some point this Summer. A PlayStation 4 version of Tropico 5 is also in the works, and barring catastrophe should be available this Fall.
[Image: Kalypso Media]

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New Nintendo eShop releases: Super Mario 3, Golden Sun, F-Zero: Maximum Velocity

Virtual Console games are out in full force this week, with heavy hitters landing on both Wii U and 3DS. The biggest of the bunch is Super Mario Bros. 3, available on 3DS and Wii U. Meanwhile, the Wii U picks up even more Game Boy Advance games with Golden Sun and F-Zero: Maximum Velocity. Starting April 22, LEGO The Hobbit makes the long journey to Wii U as well.

A pair of Ubisoft Wii U titles are also getting a permanent discount on Wii U, namely Assassin's Creed 4: Blag Flag and the excellent ZombiU. Starting April 21, Black Flag drops to $39.99, and ZombiU's price is gnawed down to $29.99.
[Image: Nintendo]

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Frozen Synapse iOS shrinks in price, expands in content

Developer Mode 7 Games comes bearing a double shot of good news for fans of its day-glo iPad strategy hit Frozen Synapse. Not only has the game received an expansion, it's also been reduced in price.

Like its PC incarnation before it, the mobile version of Frozen Synapse can now be enhanced by the "Red" expansion. For a price of $2, players will receive a new, 15-mission campaign, co-op support for the original Frozen Synapse campaign, a new multiplayer mode, new unit type, 10 singleplayer challenge missions, additional mutators and the titular "Red Mode" which, you guessed it, turns the game red.

To celebrate the debut of Red, Mode 7 has temporarily reduced the price of Frozen Synapse to $1. The studio does not specify when the strategy game might return to its original price, instead saying that the discount is applicable "for the time being."
[Image: Mode 7 Games]

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March NPD: PS4 leads hardware sales, Titanfall rules software

PlayStation 4 console
The PS4 sold more than the Xbox One or any other console in March – making it the hardware leader for the third consecutive month – market research group NPD reports. The Xbox One and PS4 pushed US hardware sales in March up 78 percent from 2013, from $222 million to $395 million. Overall game sales in March were up 3 percent year-over-year.

Five months in, the PS4 and Xbox One are out-performing initial sales of the PS3 and Xbox 360, NPD Group's Liam Callahan says: "When comparing the first five months of sales for the Xbox One and PS4 to their predecessor's first five months, total Xbox One and PS4 sales are up close to 60 percent."

Xbox One has shipped 5 million Xbox One consoles, with 311,000 sales in the US in March alone, Microsoft announced today: "Of course, we're just getting started with this generation and the months ahead will bring several announcements we think you'll love. The team will continue to deliver regular improvements and new features based on your feedback through frequent system updates .... We can't wait to share more games with you in June at E3."

On April 16, Sony announced that PS4 sales had passed 7 million.

Titanfall was the top-selling game for the month, launching for Xbox One and PC on March 11. It is the second-highest selling game for Xbox One after just one month on the market. It was followed by Infamous: Second Son, South Park: The Stick of Truth, Call of Duty: Ghosts and Dark Souls 2. See the complete game sales list below. On PC, Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls sold the most on a unit and dollar-amount basis.

Software sales declined 27 percent overall. "Year-over-year sales of every platform declined from March 2013, with the exception of the PS Vita, which saw sales grow due to the release of Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster," Callahan said.

Sales of video game accessories in March rose 4 percent, led by sales of controllers for Xbox One and PS4, NPD says. Other notable accessories included Turtle Beach headphones and headsets for next-gen consoles. Turtle Beach sales grew 50 percent year-over-year.
[Image: Sony]

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Season 2 of The Walking Dead haunts Vita next week

While the Vita still lags behind its console and computer counterparts, fans of Telltale's critically beloved The Walking Dead won't have to wait much longer for the second season of the emotionally charged zombie adventure.

Barring any unforeseen catastrophe, The Walking Dead: Season 2 will make its Vita debut on April 22. To make up for the delayed release, Telltale has opted to launch both Episode 1 and Episode 2 of the new season simultaneously. Come April 22, both episodes will be available from the PlayStation Network Store at a price of $5, though if you plan to eventually play through all five planned episodes of Season 2, you'll find that the $15 Season Pass offers a 20 percent discount over purchasing each episode individually.

Additionally, Telltale has announced that The Walking Dead: The Complete First Season is now available on Android devices including the Nvidia Shield, Amazon Fire TV and Amazon Kindle HDX.

Don't just Watch Dogs, read about them in an upcoming eBook


When Ubisoft's highly-anticipated hacker adventure Watch Dogs debuts on May 27, it will be accompanied by a newly-announced eBook dubbed "Watch Dogs //n/Dark Clouds."

As that grammatically baffling title suggests, the book centers on the sort of near-future cyberpunk intrigue that fuels the plot in Watch Dogs. Storyline details are scant, but we do know that the novel follows ex-military operative Mick Wolfe as he becomes embroiled in the dangerous world of Chicago's underground hacker elite. It's currently unknown if Aiden Pierce, protagonist of the Watch Dogs video game, will feature in the novel, but given the promotional aims of this eBook, it seems likely that Mr. Pierce will show up somewhere in the text.

Sci-fi and fantasy author John Shirley has been tapped to pen the eBook. No stranger to genre adaptations, Shirley's previous efforts include novels based on Borderlands 2, BioShock and id Software's DOOM.

"Working on Watch Dogs was enormously interesting to me because its world offers the convergence of cyberpunk and the edgy tech reality of our times; it all plays out with action and energy against the inner city backdrop that I thrive in," Shirley said. "Working with Thomas Geffroyd and Kevin Shortt at Ubisoft to develop the book was a rocking experience - Ubisoft is right out there on the frontier of videogame development. I couldn't ask for more inspiration."
[Image: Ubisoft]

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Gran Turismo 6 GT Academy competition begins next week

Sony will launch its sixth annual GT Academy event next week, giving superior Gran Turismo 6 players the chance to put their skills to the test on a real-world racetrack.

As in previous years, GT Academy players compete to enroll in a three-month driver development program, with global champions earning a spot on Nissan's NISMO race team. Judges in Europe, North America, and Germany will each pick a single winning driver to enter the program, and this year marks the first time GT Academy qualifying events are available to players in Canada.

GT Academy online qualifying events will begin in-game on April 21.

[Image: Sony]

PSA: Terraria upgraded to version 1.2 on Xbox 360, PS3, Vita

As expected, the console versions of Re-Logic's 2D sandbox platformer Terraria have been updated to version 1.2 today. The update brings a large list of bug fixes as well as improved gameplay mechanics and graphical changes to the PS3, Xbox 360 and Vita versions, such as a brighter sun and darker midnight portions of the game. Version 1.2's change log is a "direct copy from the PC change log with console exclusive changes added to them," putting the console versions more on par with the PC game.

The game has found massive success for Re-Logic on all platforms, topping 1.3 million downloads on iOS and Android and one million downloads across Xbox 360, PS3 and PS Vita as of late March. It first launched on PC in May 2011 and just hit Vita in December. The game's creator, Andrew Spinks, discussed plans for a sequel to Terraria in October, noting that it wasn't in development at the time.
[Image: 505 Games]

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Secrets of Raetikon review: Learning to fly

In Secrets of Raetikon, from developer Broken Rules, you play as a bird. Really, that about sums up most of the experience. You soar through the air, riding the wind like a bird. You swoop and dive, snatching up teeny bunnies and fallen tree fruit like a bird. You collect shiny slivers, using them to activate ancient ruins and power up a massive, ominous device like a bird.

Okay, so maybe that last one is a bit of a stretch. Indiana Jones-esque tomb raiding aside, Secrets of Raetikon is a simple game with a simple premise: You are a bird. Go forth and do bird stuff. Just, you know, don't forget to dig up a long-lost civilization while you're at it.

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Joystiq Streams: Mercenary Kings reign on PS4 with Tribute Games [Update: It's over!]


The all-encompassing brolation that was the Broforce Joystiq Streams on Tuesday did not satisfy our hunger for sweet two-dimensional action. Indeed it only made the crew more ravenous for big cartoon sprites and twitchy gunplay in the grand tradition of Contra and Metal Slug. Feeding the beast within means that we must move onward to new shooter-y, platformer-y delights. Mercenary Kings on PlayStation 4 is our next destination and Tribute Games is coming along for the ride.

Joystiq Streams takes to the Mercenary Kings jungle on PS4 at 4PM EST on the Joystiq Twitch channel today. Jean-Francois Major, Tribute Games co-founder and one of the mad minds behind Mercenary Kings, joins Alexander Sliwinski, Anthony John Agnello, and Mike Suszek from the Joystiq posse for some loot stockpiling and CLAW blasting.

Joystiq Streams airs every Tuesday and Thursday at 4PM EST.
[Images: Tribute Games]

Hands-on with Hearthstone for iPad

Hearthstone
While I was part of the early beta crowd for Hearthstone last year, I haven't played it in quite some time. It wasn't because I became disenfranchised with the game but rather because I felt it truly belonged on a tablet -- and playing it on a PC just felt wrong somehow. So I've been waiting for Hearthstone to finally make the leap to the iPad, and when that happened yesterday, I was all over it like a murloc swarm on a noobie.

In many ways, Hearthstone is absolutely tailor-fit for mobile gaming. It requires minimal manipulation; poking, holding, and the occasional swipe is about as complex as the physical mechanics get. It's a turn-based thinker's game that gives you ample time to plot your strategy and get a few other things done between moves. On an iPad, that's pretty easy; I would read a book while my opponent took his/her/its turn.

The game actually kept me up past my bedtime because of the "just one more match" temptation, which tells me that the magic that fueled my interest in this game in beta is roaring more now than ever. But how does it actually handle on Apple's devices?

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Halo composer Martin O'Donnell's music remains in Destiny after Bungie departure

After the surprise announcement that longtime Bungie composer Martin O'Donnell had been terminated, Joystiq confirmed with the studio's COO Pete Parsons that O'Donnell's music remains in Destiny. We were on hand at Bungie for a preview event, where Parsons told us, "Even the music you heard yesterday was from Marty and Mike Salvatori and C. Paul Johnson. All of their music is in." O'Donnell has collaborated with Michael Salvatori on the Halo series soundtrack for years, and more recently with Bungie sound designer and composer C. Paul Johnson.

Earlier this week, O'Donnell tweeted that Bungie's board of directors fired him "without cause" on April 11. Bungie community manager David Dague responded, saying O'Donnell and the studio parted "as friends," and wished him luck "in all his future endeavors." Later on the same day, Parsons addressed O'Donnell's departure, saying, "At Bungie, we don't take that kind of thing lightly. We don't make decisions lightly. We're a team that's committed to making an amazing game, set in an amazing universe."
[Image: Activision]

Greninja, Charizard fight it out in new Super Smash Bros. screens

Following up on a recent Nintendo Direct feature, Nintendo has released a new set of Super Smash Bros. screenshots showcasing Sheik, Yoshi and Zero Suit Samus alongside newly announced Pokemon challengers Greninja and Charizard.

Nintendo outlined its plans for online play in Super Smash Bros. earlier this month, revealing that gameplay will be split between casual-focused "For Fun" and tournament-styled "For Glory" modes. Nintendo also announced that the 3DS version of Super Smash Bros. will feature a new dungeon-diving Smash Mode that replaces the Wii U's traditional Adventure Mode.

Super Smash Bros. will launch for the Nintendo 3DS this summer. A Wii U release will follow in the winter.

[Image: Nintendo]

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 won't swing onto Xbox One at launch


With only a couple of weeks before the launch of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 across ... like, every platform, the Xbox One will be a notable exception. Activision has postponed the launch of the game on Microsoft's console, but isn't sharing any details as to why.

"We are working with Microsoft in an effort to release The Amazing Spider-Man 2 video game on Xbox One," the publisher informed Joystiq in a statement. "Currently, the game will be available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii U, Nintendo 3DS and the PC on April 29, 2014 as previously announced."

There's no timetable on when Peter will parker himself on Xbox One.

Gods will be patched with Age of Wonders 3 v1.09

The first official patch for Age of Wonders 3 is live. Version 1.09 of Triumph Studios' recent release corrects hardware-specific issues, registration problems, optimizes game performance and tweaks AI behavior as well as adding critical balance fixes to the game.

Based on feedback, the developer has also added a few other features, such as an option for quick saving and native high resolution support up to 2560x1440 / 2560x1600. The patch is available as an automatic download via Steam or as a separate file via GOG.com.

Age of Wonders 3 is a strategic role-playing game Joystiq's Earnest Cavalli called "as glorious a resurrection as the series could have hoped for," in his glowing review.

Age of Wonders 3 v1.09 change log can be found after the break.
[Image: Triumph Studios]

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Joystiq Discussion: When and why do you pay to skip ahead?


Joystiq's own Xav de Matos recently presented the crew with an all-too-familiar scenario: "My sister plays Candy Crush and couldn't beat a level," Xav told us, lamenting what today's youth has come to. "She paid real money to skip the stage. I told her she was the problem and yelled at her on everyone's behalf."

But there was no consensus amongst the staff! Some thought paying to skip challenges in games was the worst sort of design. Others thought that paying to skip chunks, whether in light games like Candy Crush Saga or heavier fare like Professor Layton, should come with penalties, such as perhaps blocking you from playing some content later on. Some even argued that plunking down cold hard cash for progress should get you other bonuses, like unlocking other cheats, to justify the cost. As it is with the entire gaming world, we're still trying to figure out how paying to play without needing to do the play part should work in quality game design - if it should work at all.

As we're wont to do, we're asking you to weigh in on the subject as well. Share your thoughts on paying for progress by answering these questions in the comments:

1) Why would you pay to skip parts of a game?

2) How should paying to skip affect the rest of the game, i.e. added penalties or bonuses?

3) What encourages you not to skip content?

Bonus: DId anyone out there pay to skip the boss pictured above? How did you do it?
[Image: Square-Enix via Game Informer]

Disney Infinity 2.0 arrives this August with Marvel heroes [Update]

Update: D23 has since posted a correction, noting it "erroneously reported about the launch of the next chapter of Disney Infinity" and that the information it provided was incorrect. It added that further information on the future of the series will be revealed on April 30.

Original story:

Disney Infinity 2.0 is slated to launch this August, according to a since-removed snippet from Disney's official fan club site, D23. While the D23 blog entry in question is still available to view, a cached version of it notes that the Disney Infinity follow-up "is coming in August 2014, and a teaser trailer can be viewed at Marvel.com," likely referencing the teaser posted by Marvel earlier this month.

"The teaser promises such Marvel-ous additions to the game as familiar Marvel characters, objects, and vehicles-the possibilities are infinite," the site continued. The previous sandbox-style adventure game from Avalanche Software did wonders for Disney Interactive, driving its revenue to $403 million in the first fiscal quarter of 2014. The company also saw losses in Q2 2013 and Q3 2013 to the tune of $54 million and $58 million, respectively. That led to layoffs in its games and Internet divisions in March that numbered 700, at which point Disney said it plans to scale back annual game output "by as much as 50 percent."

We've reached out to Disney to confirm the release window for Disney Infinity 2.0 and will update as we learn more.
[Image: Disney]

'Stiq Tips: A Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn starter guide


Any MMO can be daunting if you go in blind. Although Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn isn't nearly as hardcore as FFXI, it still has a few snags that newcomers can hit if you aren't careful. Since many of you will be jumping in for the first time with the PlayStation 4, I've compiled some tips to help you ease into the process.

First, understand that when creating a character, your race doesn't matter all that much. Yes, you can definitely do your research if you want to min-max and get that extra half a percentage of efficiency for your favorite class, but as a general rule the game is designed around the class system, so don't freak out when you're making your first step into the creation process.

Having said that, the game is also designed to accommodate one character -- no alternates (alts) needed. What I mean by that is one character can simply switch classes, start from level one, and go all the way up to the maximum of 50 at any time (once you've unlocked the ability in the main story). Say you're a Lancer; all you need to do to become an axe-wielding Marauder is visit the Marauder's guild in its major city, talk to the guildmaster, get your first axe, and equip it. Boom -- you've switched classes.

This encourages you to play the entire Realm Reborn experience with one main, in addition to full access to freely explore other classes and earn some select "cross-class" abilities to bring back to your other jobs. The other neat thing is that the game keeps the level of your highest class in mind, and gives you an experience bonus proportional to what level you are with your new class -- so experiment away!

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'Every Action Counts' in space shooter Galak-Z

Image In Galak-Z, every action counts! Why? Because in 17-BIT's upcoming PC, Vita and PS4 "roguelike spaceship shooter," death hits the reset button on your progress. Can you help maintain the exemplary 34% success rate? Find out this fall. [Image: 17-BIT]... Continue Reading

What's In A Name

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