Buy A Commemorative Map Of Blizzard World

Blizzard World, the Overwatch map that both celebrates and truly revels in Blizzard’s history, is coming out in a matter of days. Blizzard thinks you should not have to wait that long, however, and is selling an art print map of the new stage ahead of its release.

Not only do you get the map, but you also get an informational pamphlet for your visit. For the diehard Overwatch fan, or even the diehard Blizzard fan, this is a pretty neat print. I personally tend to like gaming prints that are not just the logo or concept art and are reimagined and restylized versions of things in the game.

You can buy the print here, which at the moment has no reviews. Will you answer that sworn duty?

Beta Test Buy A Commemorative Map Of Blizzard World

German Ratings Board Almost Threw Nintendo Labo In The Trash

The other day, Nintendo introduced their Labo initiative, various kits that let children make toys from pre-cut cardboard and various permutations of the Switch’s three pieces. Before it was revealed to the world, however, the German ratings board nearly accidentally threw it away.

Unterhaltungssoftware Selbstkontrolle (Entertainment Software Self-Regulation), commonly shortened to USK, is the ratings board for software in Germany. Today, the group tweeted a story about how they received Nintendo’s new cardboard peripheral in the mail and weren’t quite sure what to make of it.

“Finally we can tell the story, when we had the latest Nintendo hardware, it was almost dumped by the cleaning crew as waste paper,” the tweet said when translated to English. “In the past no one would have believed this story, anyway.”

There you go, Nintendo was one custodial mistake away from not understanding why Labo wasn’t rated in Germany. Labo is releasing for the Switch on April 20 in Variety and Giant Robot packages. We also collected some of the internet’s reactions to Nintendo’s new project.

(Thank you to @TheYremaster for aiding the translation.)

Beta Test German Ratings Board Almost Threw Nintendo Labo In The Trash

Call Of Duty: WWII And Star Wars: Battlefront II Win December U.S. Sales

In December’s video game sales, brand recognition ruled the roost as a lot of familiar faces lined up the top ten sales, according to the NPD Group.

November and December are the Superbowl of video game sales in the United States with a rather large piece of yearly software coming just from those two months. This year, Call of Duty: WWII continued its surprising dominance over the year’s sales with a strong first place showing, followed closely by Star Wars: Battlefront II.

In November, Activision was quick to point out that Call of Duty had not only topped the charts in November, it topped the charts for all games released in 2017 period. That momentum has not abated and Call of Duty: WWII is officially the best selling game of 2017. In terms of December sales, Battlefront II came in second, showing that the Star Wars brand vastly overcomes the controversy surrounding the game. Super Mario Odyssey rounds out the top three, moving up several places from its November placement.

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds on the Xbox One is the highest ranked new IP of the month, with Microsoft recently reporting a milestone of three million players on Xbox One version.

You can check out the top 20 below.

Call of
Duty: WWII
1
Star Wars: Battlefront II
2017
2
Super Mario Odyssey 3
NBA 2K18 4
Mario Kart 8 5
Madden NFL 18 6
Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds 7
Assassin’s Creed: Origins 8
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of
the Wild
9
Grand Theft Auto V 10
FIFA 18 11
Destiny 2 12
Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 13
Splatoon 2 14
Need for Speed: Payback 15
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 16
Just Dance 2018 17
The Sims 4 18
Pokemon: Ultra Sun 19
Pokemon: Ultra Moon 20

 

Additionally, we can also show the top 10 games for all of 2017, since the calendar year has ended.

Call of
Duty: WWII
1
NBA 2K18 2
Destiny 2 3
Madden NFL 18 4
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of
the Wild
5
Grand Theft Auto V 6
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon:
Wildlands
7
Star Wars: Battlefront II
2017
8
Super Mario Odyssey 9
Mario Kart 8 10

 

In terms of hardware, Nintendo took command of the month mostly on the back of strong Switch sales, but it was not enough to overcome Sony’s hardware dominance, which took the year overall. The two months before the Switch came out obviously favored the PlayStation 4, as well as the scattered other months where Sony won the numbers game. Based on a tweet from Xbox marketing head Aaron Greenberg, we know the Xbox platform outsold the PS4 in December, as well.

The 3DS also did remarkably well in December, selling 27 percent more than the little handheld did in the previous December.

 

Our Take
Overall, it was a good month for sales in terms of raw revenue, as December 2016 had analysts worried that the industry was cooling down overall. The growth this year is encouraging. Nintendo seems bullish on 2018 being able to match the previous year and Sony really has nothing to worry about. Microsoft’s objective for 2018 is to really show the world what the Xbox One X can do after strong launch months, so hopefully they’re ready to do just that.

Beta Test Call Of Duty: WWII And Star Wars: Battlefront II Win December U.S. Sales

GI Show – Nintendo Labo, They Are Billions, Fortnite Interview

Welcome back to The Game Informer Show, thanks for tuning in! On today’s episode Ben Hanson, Ben Reeves, Jeff Cork, and Kyle Hilliard roll through a string of survival games like Fortnite, Metal Gear Survive, and They Are Billions before talking about a surprising and Valve-sanctioned Portal game. Then Brian Shea joins the show and we run down the Nintendo Switch’s release list for 2018 and share some raw reactions to Nintendo Labo… the bizarre, cardboard-based construction kits Nintendo is releasing in April. After some great community emails and fan fiction, we’re joined by Epic Games’ lead systems designer Eric Williamson and lead level designers David Spalinsk and Sidney Rauchberger to talk about the history of Fortnite’s wildly successful Battle Royale mode and the redesign of the game’s map.

You can watch the video below, subscribe and listen to the audio on iTunes or Google Play, or listen to episode 382 on SoundCloud. Also, be sure to send your questions to podcast@gameinformer.com for a chance to have them answered on the show and win a prize by becoming Email of the Week!

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Our thanks to the talented Super Marcato Bros. for The Game Informer Show’s intro song. You can hear more of their original tunes and awesome video game music podcast at their website.

To jump to a particular point in the discussion, check out the time stamps below…

1:13 – Fortnite
8:00 – Metal Gear Survive
14:14 – They Are Billions
17:20 – Bridge Constructor Portal
23:05 – Dissidia Final Fantasy NT
23:45 – Hero Academy 2
26:45 – Tiny Metal
29:00 – Blossom Tales
30:15 – Brawlout
32:20 – Crawl
34:04 – Nintendo Switch’s 2018 release calendar
36:35 – Nintendo Labo
43:50 – Community emails
1:32:20 – Fan fiction radio play
1:38:00 – Fortnite interview
1:51:53 – Our raw reaction to Nintendo Labo’s reveal

Beta Test GI Show – Nintendo Labo, They Are Billions, Fortnite Interview

Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King Review – A Love Letter To The Past

Developer
Castle Pixel’s affection for The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is
immediately and persistently evident in Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King. With
sprawling dungeons, enjoyable puzzles, and intense boss battles that deliver
new twists, it’s a worthwhile adventure despite relying on the tried-and-true
formula of Nintendo’s classic series.

Blossom
Tales puts you in control of Lily, a new knight serving the Kingdom of Blossom.
Shortly after she’s knighted, the king is put in a slumber by his brother, the
evil wizard Crocus. As the new recruit, you venture to distinct regions of the
world to find three key ingredients that can awaken the king.

While
lacking in the design sophistication of Nintendo’s enduring masterpiece, many
of the trappings of A Link to the Past are used heavily throughout the
adventure. You set out with just a sword, but later find items like a bow, a
boomerang, and bombs. But just because the mechanics are familiar doesn’t mean
they aren’t fun. Each of the four dungeons is long and diverse, giving ample
enemy encounters, puzzles, and boss battles. Though all the dungeons are great,
I love the fire-themed one the best. Battling through legions of flame monsters
and a bullet-hell miniboss is a rush that is finely balanced with methodical,
thought-provoking puzzles where you must track a path to activate all the tiles
without stepping on any you already activated.

The action
sequences only intensify as you work through this 10-to-15-hour adventure. My adrenaline began pumping as I ran
along a narrow, falling walkway, avoiding projectiles from turrets on the wall
and slashing at enemies in my path. However, the puzzles stick out in my head
as my favorite parts of the dungeons, as they continually build on top of the
simple concepts as you play on. The aforementioned tile-activation
puzzle is the most common concept, but my favorite style tasks you with
rotating differently shaped tiles to connect circuits to get power to its
destination. These puzzles were never difficult to the point where I was stuck
for an extended period, but they often made me stop and think about the
solution for a bit.

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Exploration
across the multiple regions is rewarded well. In addition to the typical heart
pieces and magic gauge upgrades, you can also uncover awesome new weapons and
abilities. I was stuck on a boss in a dungeon, so rather than repeatedly trying
to fight him, I explored the world and upgraded my bow to fire three arrows at
once, making the fight much easier. My favorite optional ability comes
late-game with the discovery of the powerful fireball spell, which destroys
almost anything in its path. The feeling of discovery abounds. As you explore,
you uncover sidequests that give you reasons to revisit old regions, fun minigames
that give you worthwhile rewards, and hidden treasure chests.

Blossom
Tales is set up as a bedtime story being told by a grandfather to two young
children. This convention delivers some cute moments, using the grandfather as
an unreliable narrator at times. Sometimes, the kids interrupt the grandfather,
arguing over what Lily should fight next and the player must choose between two
options. It doesn’t happen often, but I enjoyed the few times it popped up.

Despite
some new ideas, Blossom Tales can rely too heavily on aping a 25-year-old game.
The visual style, the overall structure, and the gameplay plays like an updated
version of A Link to the Past. At times, it seems less like an homage and more
like an unlicensed bootleg of that classic title.

Fun
puzzles, exciting dungeons, and satisfying exploration makes this retro-style
title a joy to play through. With loads of Zelda inspiration and fun, new takes
on puzzles and boss battles within the beloved formula, Blossom Tales: The
Sleeping King is a delightful take on a familiar style.

Beta Test Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King Review – A Love Letter To The Past

Nintendo Sells 2.6 Million Units Of Hardware In The U.S. In December Alone

 

As the hibernating bear of sales analysis wakes up from its post-Christmas lull, it is time for companies to brag about how much hardware they sold over the holiday. First up is Nintendo, which boasts an absurd 2.6 million units of hardware in the month of December, an exceptionally high number even for the Christmas season.

The numbers, delivered by the NPD Group, include the Switch, the Nintendo 3DS, and the SNES Classic Edition, with the sales ranking in that order. The Switch, which notably had no official holiday bundle or discount of any kind, lead the charge with 1.5 million units sold during December, which brings its grand total up to 4.8 million. This confirms Nintendo’s insistence earlier that the Switch is the fastest selling console in U.S. history.

The 3DS follows behind with 750,000 units sold, a nearly 30 percent increase over the previous December. The higher sales were likely spurred on by Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, as well as the 3DS providing a cheaper handheld alternative to the more expensive Switch, but that kind of increase is still fairly unprecedented.

Most notably, that increase makes December 2017 the best month of sales for the 3DS since the same month in 2014.

 

Our Take
The Switch had a great first year, which technically isn’t even complete for another month and a half. The 3DS sales justify Nintendo’s reluctance to let go of the system, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see some more small software stay on the 3DS for at least a little bit longer.

Beta Test Nintendo Sells 2.6 Million Units Of Hardware In The U.S. In December Alone

Sky Force Reloaded Review – Rewarding Repetition

Sky Force Reloaded is a bit unusual in design. Grinding for levels has more to do with your progress than the skill of weaving through a sea of bullets. This may sound like a dreadful approach to a vertical-scrolling shooter, but Sky Force Reloaded succeeds in making almost every second matter – whether it’s victory over a challenging boss or defeat to a basic enemy. Your ship is continually evolving, gaining better weapons, shields, and even the addition of A.I.-controlled assistants. The degree to which the ship improves is significant – almost comically so – giving players the firepower to flawlessly complete levels they may have deemed impossible hours before. Developers Infinite Dreams and Crunching Koala created a power trip of leveling that just happens to occur within excellently designed shooter.

The gameplay sticks to the basic script of classics like Raiden and 1942, requiring players to do little more than hold down the fire button while weaving through fighters and bullets. It doesn’t offer a hardcore “bullet hell” experience, but varied enemies and nicely designed waves of action elevate this basic formula to deliver enthralling stages that conclude with wild boss battles. The controls are smooth, the visuals are clean, and flow of play changes to increase the intensity or give the player a needed breather. One level strips away your weapons entirely, almost making the action feel like a stealth game in which you veer away from threats rather than engage them.

Diving into a level for the first time likely won’t go well. A stream of 10 fighters, which could be mowed down with ease in a previous stage, may only be partially destroyed, since your weapons aren’t powerful enough. With those bogeys still occupying the play space, you will likely be overrun by foes in a matter of seconds. You’re probably going to die.

Like all shooters of this ilk, memorizing formations helps, and may be the only thing you need to complete the stage. I entered several levels underpowered and managed to get through them. It feels great knowing you defied the odds. In most cases, however, I would die, retreat to my hanger with the currency I earned in my run, and use it to enhance my craft’s abilities. Every little upgrade gives you a better shot. That’s the routine I got into, and it’s an addictive one, where I continually found myself saying “just one more game” and “one more upgrade.”

I’m torn between what’s more rewarding: achieving victory through sheer skill, or annihilating a stage with an overpowered ship. They both define Sky Force Reloaded, and show how its gameplay can be exhilarating for different reasons.

Sure, playing through the same level a dozen-plus times to farm currency is annoying, but the rewards you reap make it worthwhile, and they go well beyond upgrades. In one run, a colored ship part may appear after an enemy is destroyed. You lose it if you die, but it’s added to your collection if you finish the stage. When you own all parts of a particular color, a new ship is forged, offering different functionality (such as more health or a different firing arrangement).

Collectible cards also appear randomly; some activate immediately to give the player 15-minute bumps, like an increase to the maximum firing rate, or making the megabomb more powerful. Other cards offer valuable permanent boosts along the lines of a lucky shield sometimes activating after you are hit, or a support drone that flies at your side. Collecting the cards is another fun aspect of the experience that is again only achieved through time vested.

The effort the player puts in also funnels into career statistics. When milestones are reached, new technicians join your team. Only one technician can be active at a time, but they are game-changers. A tech named Burton Panic randomly fires off his own supply of power-ups, which can help or be hilarious if no enemies are nearby. Another tech named Kate Brush paints over your first scratch, meaning you stay alive longer. All of Sky Force Reloaded’s side elements add up in a big way, and play into the central hook of the game: becoming more powerful. Even if you max everything out, the game still delivers a decent challenge, especially in the final levels.

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Most people that devote time to leveling up should be able to finish the game on the standard difficulty, but beating it on insane requires plenty of skill. I enjoyed almost every run – both in single-player and local co-op. Having a friend at your side helps in farming and taking down harder stages, but also creates more chaos to decipher.

Sky Force is a long-running series, but this is the first entry that truly hooked me and made me want to play more just to see how ridiculously overpowered my ship could become.

Beta Test Sky Force Reloaded Review – Rewarding Repetition

The Best Tweets About Nintendo's Labo Reveal

Things got spicy yesterday when Nintendo revealed its newest toy in the bag was, uh, a lot of cardboard. No, really. You can decide for yourself what you think of it, as the rest of the internet already has.

Speaking of which, we thought we’d round up the responses to the reveal that offered both amusing responses as well as thought-provoking ones. Well, as thought-provoking as you can be about slabs of cardboard, anyway.

Beta Test The Best Tweets About Nintendo’s Labo Reveal

Brawlout Review – Not Much Of A Contender

Smash Bros. is weird. Nintendo’s fighting mashup drew the masses in with the promise of seeing what would happen if Yoshi were to get really upset with Kirby. Hardcore fans developed a splinter scene, where ultra-competitive players stripped the game to its essence – no items, Final Destination only, thank you very much – squeezing every last drop of strategic gameplay from the cutesy title. The series has yet to come to the Nintendo Switch, and in that absence, Angry Mob Games has brought its platform fighter Brawlout over from Steam Early Access. It caters to the serious Smash fans, but without the charm, variety, or recognizable characters.

If you’ve played Smash, you have a solid idea of what to expect. After picking your character, you beat the snot out of your friends or A.I. opponents until they fly or fall outside the boundaries of the stage. The more damage you do, the farther they get knocked back by your attacks. You can choose between timed matches or play until you deplete a stock number of lives. That’s about it; aside from a single-player challenge tower where you fight your way through a variety of regular matches, you don’t have other options to explore. 

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Brawlout suffers from an overall lack of content, starting with its roster. When you start the game, you can choose between eight characters, including guests from Guacamelee and Hyper Light Drifter. They’re not outright clones, but I recognized familiar Smash archetypes, with analogs to Donkey Kong’s grab and Pikachu’s lightning attack, among others. That’s not to say they’re bereft of originality; Paco, a four-armed Luchador frog, is a goofy character with a prehensile tongue that he can use to whip himself back onto the stage from long distances. The walrus Olaf can freeze enemies and also summon ice platforms to get a boost when he’s knocked away from stable ground. Aside from a handful of standout moves, however, Brawlout’s cast as a whole is inoffensively generic.

The stages are equally bland, with few animated elements or personality. They’re just backdrops featuring things like totem poles and ice floes. Unlocking more than the initial three is tedious, because you need to level-grind characters to master rank 10. The results aren’t especially rewarding, much like the rest of the unlocks. To get new characters, you need to buy piñatas with gems and coins earned through gameplay. If you want to unlock a specific character, good luck! The rewards are randomized. They’re all essentially new skins, with subtle gameplay tweaks. You can unlock Senator Feathers, for example, who is basically Chief Feathers with a stars-and-stripes-themed top hat. Considering the hurdles you have to jump over to unlock the new content, it’s a disappointment. 

You don’t have items to use against your foes or a final smash counterpart, but a meter builds up as you battle. You can unleash it when it’s halfway filled to break enemy combos, or wait until it’s completely filled to become a slightly super-powered version of your character. That aspect of the game never really clicked with me; it is a nice addition, but I would gladly trade it for the ability to block. You can roll out of danger, but the timing window is frustratingly small, particularly when you’re trying to avoid projectiles. 

Locally, you can play with up to four of your friends. When you take the game online, things falls even further apart. I was never able to play with people on my friends list. The game simply timed out repeatedly. After trying for about half an hour, I was able to play a 1 v. 1 match against a random opponent, but it was so laggy that it was virtually unplayable. In short, if you can’t get your friends together in the same room – and playing against other people is a priority – Brawlout is a non-starter. 

Brawlout probably isn’t for most Smash fans, including me. It simply can’t compete in terms of roster size, interesting characters, and overall personality. All of those things are critically important. Gating what little it has to offer behind a slow-drip progression feed is a mistake, too. Players who don’t have the time or patience to unlock everything can console themselves with the knowledge that they aren’t missing out on much. 

Beta Test Brawlout Review – Not Much Of A Contender

Activision CEO Eric Hirshberg Leaves After Eight Years

Eric Hirshberg is leaving Activision after eight years as CEO of Activision Publishing, a division of Activision Blizzard. 

Hirshberg arrived to the company as an outsider from the game industry, bringing his advertiser mentality to how games were marketed. Under Hirshberg, Activision saw massive successes like Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, Skylanders, Destiny, and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, among other hugely profitable titles.

He is staying until March as the search for a new CEO of Activision Publishing commences. Hirshberg is leaving the company on a high note, with Call of Duty: WWII’s debut smashing records.

We have been able to talk to Hirshberg on a few occasions. He spoke with us about the importance of Sledgehammer on the Call of Duty franchise and how development rotation affects the series.

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Hirshberg also talked to us about Hollywood and Call of Duty’s symbiotic love affair.

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Serving as Activision’s CEO has been an honor and a thrill,” Hirshberg said in a statement release today. “This is an amazing company. One which routinely delivers epic experiences for our fans on a scale that no one else can. I have nothing but admiration for the incredible team I have had the privilege to lead.”

Beta Test Activision CEO Eric Hirshberg Leaves After Eight Years