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The Weekender: Get Sheeped Edition

It’s bee a varied, albeit low-key week this week. We decided to check in with Fortnite, as we haven’t talked about it in a while, and we’ve updated our guide to staying competitive on mobile. We also updated a few of our guides, as well as review some games we missed out on.

We’re on track with reviews of newer titles now though, with several already in the pipeline for the day of release.

Meanwhile, in mobile gaming…

Out Now

Sheeping Around (iOS Universal) – Full review coming soon!

This one caught our eye – a multiplayer strategy card game (with deck-building, no less) where one person is the Thief and one person is the Shepard – you’re both fighting for ‘control’ over three Sheep. You must play cards that allow for various abilities, such as luring, trapping and so forth. We haven’t had a chance to take for a spin ourselves, but I’ve already got someone working on a review.

Two other games caught our eye, but we won’t write them up fully as we haven’t played them either and there’s no plans for review right now. Bit ballers (iOS) looks like a Kairosoft game about basketball, except not made by Kairosoft, and Lootbox RPG (iOS) is a cheap and cheerful dungeon crawler devoid of any kind of online functionality – buy once, play forever. Or at least, until you get bored. Maybe we will review this one after all.

Also, we mustn’t forget the global launch of NetEase’s UNO. I mean, I was super excited to give this a try myself but then I read TouchArcade’s write up and… yeah. No.

New Pre-Orders

The Escapists 2: Pocket Breakout (iOS Universal & Android)

Team17 did a pretty good job when they brought sandbox/simulation game The Escapists to mobile back in 2017. Now they’re looking to do the same again with The Escapists 2. It’s due out on January 31st, but you can pre-order now on both the app store (for $6.99) and Google Play via pre-registration. We’ll try and have our review ready as soon as we can.

Sales

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem like there’s anything really worth mentioning this week, although if you spot something do let us know in the comments. If you want a peak behind the curtain, we actually get a lot of our sales info (on iOS at least) from this website, if you want to have a look for yourself. Just make sure you’ve set it to ‘Games’, and then ‘Last 72 (or 24) Hours.

That’s all for this week, enjoy your weekends!

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Review: Divide by Sheep

Number sense: you know your way around figures, can manipulate them quickly, line them up, cut them down to size. Calculating a tip, or guesstimating interest rate accrual. It’s a vague skill practiced from childhood in a million ways, large and small. Good to have for sure, but not exactly fun on its own. Every now and then a puzzle game makes regular arithmetic and number sense into centrepieces, and polishes each until it shines and fascinates. Divide by Sheep makes the player into a click-clack abacus for sheep destruction, keeping the challenge varied by rotating new mechanics and obstacles at a bracing pace. It can count itself among the lucky few games to make the ordinary deeply satisfying.

Each level has a setup of islands, sheep, obstacles and other dohickeys to fiddle with. The goal, ultimately, is to gather up sheep in groups with specific numbers and usher them onto the lifeboats. In a way this is a pathing problem, but really it breaks down into numbers, operations, and ordering. You have the raw material of the level presented right at the get-go, and just flick to send the sheep from one platform to an adjacent one. Maybe they fall into the water, get eaten by wolves, diced by lasers, mutilated by explosives…or maybe they join ranks with another group of sheep. Add, subtract, multiply, divide: the game is a primer on how these nominally dull operations work when placed at your fingertips.

Divide 2

The puzzles are clearly presented from the get-go, meaning the player can mentally model and consider a variety of potential solutions relatively easily. Puzzles are about tinkering and manipulating the field to see if that solution sitting in your head plays out nearly as neatly in reality. On that front, the game is extremely responsive and easy to play.  It’s accessible from a practical and theoretical standpoint. Each move has a spatial element (paths matter) and a numerical element (how many sheep matters), so in combination the levels are just vexing enough to be challenging without blocking forward momentum. Mental struggle gives way to fireworks as that indefinable eureka moment comes, again and again.

Besides sheep and platforms, there are lasers, bombs, spatial vortices, Charon ferries, bouncing plates and safety nets, slippery pigs and voracious wolves. Each works distinctly, with a few of them counter-intuitive (pigs in particular take priority in some unusual cases) but in general the elements combine in naturally exciting and stimulating ways. ‘Fun’ in puzzlers means constantly teasing new possibilities

Divide 3

The progression and total amount of levels is rather generous, but if you’re already great at this sort of thing the game might more accurately be more of an appetizer and less of a main dish. (As opposed to, say, The Talos Principle, The Witness, Stephen’s Sausage Roll). Still, full marks for using dozens of levels to explore the variety of possible challenges. New tools, new obstacles, little redundancy or repetition. Still finite though, and exhaustible. Each ‘world’ has a different palette, standard set of mechanics and thirty levels, so in total there are one-hundred and fifty levels, with little to no redundancy between them.

If there were one avenue of criticism, it would be that Divide By Sheep’s puzzles can be solved by brute force, just messing around very quickly and carelessly with the possible permutations of moves. It’s not as inscrutable as other puzzle games, which might refuse to crack at all until the proper insight makes itself known. Each level in Divide By Sheep has three stars, and a ‘perfect score’ is not necessary to advance past a level, but a certain amount is required to move to new worlds. This means less gatekeeping and greater accessibility, but it also comes across as padding content somewhat. So whether these features are a liability or a reasonable compromise is a matter of perspective, but they are deliberate and present in the game.

Divide 4

In terms of design and art direction, the game’s buoyant blend of cartoonish gore matches the game perfectly. Messing around just to see the animations and mayhem is fun, as it well should be. It conveys the tone of gameplay deftly and sets the mood without being too flashy or forward.

All in all, the game makes for an excellent romp. Yes, it’s an excellent way to get anybody to practice their sums but that’s like praising a dish for ‘sneaking’ vegetables into it. Edifying to be sure, but a delight in its own right.

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Review: MIYAMOTO

Bestowing your game with the same name as that of the most famous game’s designer on the planet is a bold statement.  Depending on your point of view, you will either be disappointed or relieved to discover that there are no portly plumbers or pointy-eared heroes on display here. Miyamoto turns out to be a roguelike game with elements of both card play and turn-based tactical battles.

Before you even start playing, it is obvious that Miyamoto is a game proud of its tabletop miniatures gaming influences. The title screen shows a board game box and tapping on it will flip the lid, launching you into the game. Each playing piece is portrayed as a static model, posed on a coloured base. The game has a wonderful minimalist look, with the limited colour palette ensuring that the stylised units are both lovely to look at and easy to identify. Information is also kept to a bare minimum as each unit only has two statistics to display; health points and attack strength. To top it off, the way that cherry blossom flutters across the screen with the unobtrusive music playing away in the background, is in perfect keeping with the feudal Japanese setting.

MIYAMOTO Small Battle

Each of the eight levels is a skirmish battle set on a tiny four by four grid. At the beginning of each battle, your leader and your opponent’s leader are placed on opposite sides of the battlefield.  Tap your leader and you are able to move them to an adjacent space and then if an enemy is within range, launch an attack. The results of combat are easily resolved; the strength of the attacking unit is deducted from the remaining health of the assaulted unit. It is as simple as that with no other statistics to worry about.

At the beginning of each round you will draw some cards.  These do not cost any resources to play and will either allow you to introduce a new unit onto the battlefield or cast a spell. When a new unit is placed on the board it will usually be inactive until the start of the next round. Spells, meanwhile, have an immediate effect and fall into two types. Missile spells allow you to assail your enemies with the likes of fireballs and ice bolts. Other spells can be used to enhance a unit’s abilities; this may improve their attack strength or ready an inactive unit.

MIYAMOTO Cards

There is little opportunity to manage the content of your deck.  After each victory, you are awarded a choice of one of three cards to add to your deck, but you never get to thin out your cards or even see the full list of the cards that you own.  This does mean that the game has quite a high level of luck; drawing powerful cards early on will give you a distinct advantage.

The units have a satisfying variety of unique powers. The catapult is a static unit with a fearsome ranged attack that causes damage to all nearby units. The thief is weak but he does immediately add two extra cards to your hand (better not ask how he acquired them). He is great to use in tandem with the Princess as she gains an extra point of attack strength for each friendly unit already in play. The graveyard is another cool card; it will allow you to deploy an extra skeleton unit each round. Other units have abilities that enhance nearby friendly units, adding to their strength or protecting them from attack.

Miyamoto large battles

The overall aim of Miyamoto is to defeat eight progressively more difficult enemy leaders. Once a leader has their health reduced to zero the rest of their troops will pack up and go home.  Hence, you need to protect your leader at all costs, which can be a real headache when you are coming under threat from every which way at once.  It is at times like this that the small 16 square arena begins to feel especially claustrophobic, brutal and chaotic. If you are too wary then there is a real danger that your units will be swamped but throwing caution to the wind may leave your leader vulnerable.

Defeat an enemy leader and not only will you progress to the next battle but also earn some coins. This money can be put towards the cost of a new leader, each of whom has their own unique set of abilities. Be warned, these guys are not cheap. At the bottom end of the market and with an asking price of 10,000 coins is Hanzo whose fiery palms inflict area damage to all nearby units.  Save up 30,000 coins and you can enlist the titular Miyamoto, whose wide-ranging power will give a permanent attacking boost to all allied units.  The most that I have earned for defeating an opposition leader is around 300 coins, so a new leader is a long-term investment.  However, they do give you the hope that they will provide the spark to defeat the final couple of tough levels.

Miyamoto Game over

Getting through all eight battles before your leader is killed offers a stiff and addictive challenge. Sometimes the enemy leader will make things a little easier by going on a kamikaze charge, leaving them in a very vulnerable position. Usually, however, the high speed turns and constantly changing battlefield means that you will always need to have your wits about you. A single high-powered strike against your leader can bring the entire campaign to an abrupt end. Miyamoto has lashings of rogue style tension. As you invest more time and effort you will have more to lose, thus escalating the pressure to ever-greater levels.

Miyamoto is a small game with very spartan presentation. There are only eight levels which means that the experience is going to be over sooner rather than later. There is no background story or rules explanation. Thankfully, it is straightforward enough to ensure that anyone with a passing familiarity with turn-based strategy games should be able to pick it up in next to no time. The interface helps, being instinctive and responsive, although it would be nice to be able to check on the abilities of enemy units. Some players will find the approach overly simplified. There is no pinning of units, terrain modifiers or flank attack bonuses. But that’s fine because Miyamoto isn’t aiming to be an in-depth simulation, in fact, with such a tiny field of play, there isn’t really that much scope for manoeuvring your units. It a fast-paced game of throwing your units into battle as quickly as possible, filling as many spaces around your leader, so that you can place new ones ever deeper into opponents’ territory – of course the problem is that they are attempting to do exactly the same.

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Daily Deal – Warhammer 40,000: Gladius – Relics of War, 25% Off

We’ve just rolled out an update that makes it easier to find downloadable content for your favorite games. Any game that offers DLC will now have a sortable, featured page of all of its DLC in one place. Furthermore, (and especially for games that have a tons of DLC) we’re providing ways for developers to customize how these pages by creating lists, adding branding and specifying which titles to feature.

Here are a few examples: Fantasy Grounds (1,166 DLC), Train Simulator 2019 (586 DLC), Microsoft Flight Simulator X: Steam Edition (272 DLC), and Rocket League (28 DLC)

To find these new pages, visit the store page for any game with DLC and click the new ‘View all’ button in the DLC area.

Let us know if you run into any issues or have feedback on these new pages.

-The Steam Team

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Now Available on Steam – Onimusha: Warlords / 鬼武者

We’ve just rolled out an update that makes it easier to find downloadable content for your favorite games. Any game that offers DLC will now have a sortable, featured page of all of its DLC in one place. Furthermore, (and especially for games that have a tons of DLC) we’re providing ways for developers to customize how these pages by creating lists, adding branding and specifying which titles to feature.

Here are a few examples: Fantasy Grounds (1,166 DLC), Train Simulator 2019 (586 DLC), Microsoft Flight Simulator X: Steam Edition (272 DLC), and Rocket League (28 DLC)

To find these new pages, visit the store page for any game with DLC and click the new ‘View all’ button in the DLC area.

Let us know if you run into any issues or have feedback on these new pages.

-The Steam Team

Classic Mario, Zelda and Star Fox games for Nintendo 3DS now only $19.99 each

Classic Mario, Zelda and Star Fox games for Nintendo 3DS now only $19.99 each

Starting on Feb. 4, three high-quality Nintendo 3DS games starring iconic characters – Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D and Star Fox 64 3D – are joining the Nintendo Selects library. Nintendo Selects is a collection of games available at a suggested retail price of only $19.99 each.

The Nintendo Selects library features a wide variety of games for various Nintendo systems. In addition to these three newly added games, other games in the Nintendo Selects library for the Nintendo 3DS family of systems include classics like Super Mario 3D Land, Animal Crossing: New Leaf – Welcome amiibo, Kirby: Triple Deluxe and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. For a full listing of games in the Nintendo Selects library, visit https://www.nintendo.com/nintendo-selects.

In the Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS game, build, play and share your own side-scrolling Super Mario levels using a wide variety of tools. Want to make your cannons shoot coins or have Bowser fly? With the intuitive touch-screen controls of the Nintendo 3DS family of systems, creating levels is easy and fun. Plus, you can take on 100 built-in courses as you tackle the Super Mario Challenge.

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D game brings Link’s classic adventure to Nintendo 3DS. This remastered and enhanced version features a cast of memorable characters, unforgettable gameplay and a dark and mysterious story. With control of time itself, Link must save the world of Termina from destruction by helping citizens, battling bosses and solving challenging puzzles.

Join ace pilot Fox McCloud in the Star Fox 64 3D game, an action-packed space shooter that puts you in the control of the classic Arwing ship as you blast, warp and barrel roll across space. Each mission in the game takes you through a different planet of the Lylat system as you face off against enemies, collect power-ups and fight powerful bosses on the way to the final battle against the evil Dr. Andross.

Anyone looking to play these great games on a system in the Nintendo 3DS family can pick up any one of these affordable options:

  • A black-and-turquoise or purple-and-silver New Nintendo 2DS XL system* pre-loaded** with the Mario Kart 7 game at a suggested retail price of $149.99.
  • A Scarlet Red or Electric Blue Nintendo 2DS system with the New Super Mario Bros. 2 game pre-installed** at a suggested retail price of only $79.99.

For more information about Nintendo 3DS, visit https://www.nintendo.com/3ds/.

*Nintendo 2DS and New Nintendo 2DS XL play Nintendo 3DS games in 2D only.

**In specially marked packages.

For Nintendo 3DS systems, use Parental Controls to restrict 3D mode for children 6 and under.

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The Future Of The Godot Game Engine

With the recent release of Godot 3.1 beta, it’s a good time to look at the future.  That is exactly what Juan Linietsky, lead developer on the Godot engine has done.  On Twitter he laid out his current roadmap for development priorities in Godot 4.0/4.1.

In a pair of tweets, he first discussed general Godot improvements, mostly around the renderer:

Godot

Then in a second tweet, he discussed Physics improvements:

Physics

Keep in mind, although Juan is the lead and perhaps most important developer on the Godot team, he is by no means the only one.  This means even though you don’t see a feature on the two above lists doesn’t mean it wont happen, as there is a vibrant community of developers adding new features to Godot.

GameDev News


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Daily Deal – Crash Bandicoot™ N. Sane Trilogy, 35% Off

We’ve just rolled out an update that makes it easier to find downloadable content for your favorite games. Any game that offers DLC will now have a sortable, featured page of all of its DLC in one place. Furthermore, (and especially for games that have a tons of DLC) we’re providing ways for developers to customize how these pages by creating lists, adding branding and specifying which titles to feature.

Here are a few examples: Fantasy Grounds (1,166 DLC), Train Simulator 2019 (586 DLC), Microsoft Flight Simulator X: Steam Edition (272 DLC), and Rocket League (28 DLC)

To find these new pages, visit the store page for any game with DLC and click the new ‘View all’ button in the DLC area.

Let us know if you run into any issues or have feedback on these new pages.

-The Steam Team