Team Indie from Brightside Games has characters from Bit. Trip Runner, Braid, Knytt and more team up to save a cat inside a computer – New trailer released

First, I love Brightside Games, the developers of Team Indie, for letting me write the headline to the article. Which, by the way, is entirely accurate. More specifically, Team Indie is a game where:

Commander Video from Runner 2 by Gaijin Games / Choice Provisions
Clunk from Awesomenauts by Ronimo Games
Super Crate Box guy from Super Crate Box by Vlambeer
“Black Fluff Ball” from Badland by Frogmind
Tiny from Tiny & Big: Grandpa’s Leftovers by Black Pants Studio
Mi from Knytt Underground by Nifflas’ Games
J. Jitters from The Great Jitters: Pudding Panic by Kunststoff
Dustgirl from Dustforce by Hitbox Team and
Tim from Braid by Number None

team up to save Marvin the cat (an original character) who is trapped in a computer after a more evil cat cuts its necklace off. Other than that, just a normal day, you know? In any case, Brightside Games has released a new trailer for Team Indie, which you can see above. It’s a pretty epic affair. So what is Team Indie you ask? Well, primarily it is a puzzle platformer where, from what I have played, you use successive runs of different characters to collect all of the gems in a level and get to the end. So, Commander Video sliding on one run might cause a door to open for Marvin on a second run, as an early example. It all looks rather nice and the cast of characters is impressive (and used with permission). Team Indie is set for release on October 9, 2014 and will be available for both PC and Mac through Steam. It all looks like a very promising puzzle platforming mashup and I’d really like to see how deep they can take the character swapping mechanic, which has some serious potential.

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25. September 2014 by Michael
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The Last Parsec – Three books containing space faring adventures in the Savage Worlds

I have a long-standing fondness for Savage Worlds from PEG Inc. It helps, of course, that I was pretty active on the old Great White Games forums way back in the day and that Savage Worlds was one of the first indie RPGs (maybe the first) that I ever came across. Nostalgia aside, though, Savage Worlds is a fast-moving, combat-centric, action-oriented system. It helps that the entire core rulebook is only $9.99 as well and is pretty easily hacked to play any sort of action RPG game that you could possibly want (I will say, in my experience, the system works best in action-oriented games, but that could be partially the result of the games I have played in it). That being said, it is also one of the best supported RPGs on the market, with supplements and settings to suit just about every purpose. And Savage Worlds creator Shane Hensley is now trying to expand Savage Worlds’ extensive support with a new setting: The Last Parsec (currently on Kickstarter). Instead of a single book that sets out rules to play in a sci-fi setting (in addition to the core book, Savage Worlds Deluxe, you also need a copy of the Savage Worlds Sci-Fi Compendium, as well, which gives you many of those sci-fi options) The Last Parsec includes three setting books (with plans to expand the line into 2015). What do each of the 96-page The Last Parsec books contain, you might ask? Why, let’s take a look at the Kickstarter: “Each book contains detailed background on a system, planet, or other location, any new Edges, Hindrances, Gear, Ships, or Setting Rules important to the area, a Plot Point Campaign, Savage Tales, and a Bestiary covering the strange xenos and shady characters one might meet in the distant reaches.” Obviously, I have not seen The Last Parsec books, but I can say that my experience with PEG Inc.’s products in the past have been overwhelmingly positive. Miniatures, a GM screen and maps are also part of the Kickstarter campaign, so there is certainly a lot of content in there. For those that would like to know more about the Savage World (get it?) of the Last Parsec, you can also check out the free primer. Through the Kickstarter, all three books in PDF go for $35 and in softcover format they run $70 with other options, like limited edition hardbacks, available. A couple of stretch goals have already been passed, but the most interesting to me are the addition of figure flats at the $45,000 and $60,000 levels. If you are interested in The Last Parsec, there is more information over on the Kickstarter page.

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24. September 2014 by Michael
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Bomb Squad – An Intense Cooperative Real-time Tabletop Game from Tasty Minstrel Games

I’m a big fan of real-time tabletop games. Not that I’ve played that many (Tasty Minstrel’s own Jab jumps to mind, reviewed on this very web site) but the idea of running a tabletop game in real-time creates a very different experience from what I’m used to in that space. So, I must admit that I am thoroughly intrigued by Bomb Squad, designed by Dan Keltner and David Short and published by Tasty Minstrel, which currently has just over a week left on its Kickstarter campaign.  Bomb Squad challenges two to six players to take turns controlling a robot in an attempt to save hostages and defusing a bomb. As opposed to, say, Space Alert, the game does take place in turns and players can take as long or as short as they would like, but the clock is always ticking. Players are limited in how they can communicate with each other, creating an additional level of tension as players try to the experience. There is a print and play version of the game already available (the game currently has a 7.5 rating on Board Game Geek with 26 reviews) and the rulebook is posted as well, so it should be easy to determine if Bomb Squad is something you’re interested in.  Bomb Squad has already surpassed its original $40,000 goal with stretch goals set out all the way to $110,000. Through the Kickstarter, backing at the $35 level gets you a copy of Bomb Squad in the USA (with those in other countries needing to pledge higher amounts to get the game). For a better overview of how the game works, check out this video explaining how things play out:

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23. September 2014 by Michael
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Big Pharma from Twice Circled and Positech Games – Good for What Ails You

People look at all sortsBigPharma-18-09-14-F of companies and posit that they could do it better. Now you have the change to do it in the pharmaceuticals world – well, in a video game at least. Big Pharma from developer Twice Circled and published by Positech Games (of Gratuitous Space Battles, etc., fame) allows you to step into the world of, well, big pharma to see if you can make money making medicine and keep your soul intact. Or maybe just make money. Big Pharma will follow your company “[f]rom humble beginnings with a few rusty reconditioned machines, you can progress from knocking out cheap generic treatments for minor ailments, to discovering new active ingredients and hi-tech machines to help refine the next generation of world-changing drugs” according to the release from Twice Circled and Positech. But you’ll also be competing against rivals in a dynamic marketplace (which is my favorite place to compete with rivals) and is described as “part business sim, part logistics game puzzle.” That sounds seriously rad to me. Plus I really love the brightly colored graphics. It’s still amazing how many games avoid bright color palletes. If you want more info, good news! There’s an official dev blog as well as  an official web site. You can also follow Twice Circled on Facebook or Twitter. Big Pharma will be exhibited at EGX in London from September 25 to 28, 2014. Big Pharma is definitely something I’ll be watching closely in the future. It has been in development since May 2014 and it aiming for a summer 2015 release date.

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22. September 2014 by Michael
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13th Age in Glorantha – One of the deepest fantasy RPG worlds merged with one of the most popular modern RPGs

First, a little unabashed love: I think that Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet’s 13th Age (which I’ve read – and own – but have not gotten to the table yet) is freakin’ rad. It merges classic D&D aesthetics and feel with a lot of great modern game design to make a nice package. Glorantha, on the other hand, is something that I have always been curious about. I mean, it’s a fantasy world that has been through so many iterations over the past nearly-40 years and – of course – I’ve heard a ton about it (and it’s sometimes-ducks) but I’ve never actual delved into it even though it has been the setting for several different games over the years (Hero Quest and Runequest are the two I know off the top of my head). And so I am intrigued by the promise of the current Kickstarter for 13th Age in Glorantha and The Gloranthan Source Book, which will let you use the Gloranthan setting in 13th Age. Well, The Gloranthan Source Book is actually a crunch-free book intended to introduce players to Glorantha. 13th Age in Glorantha, on the other hand, is a book aimed at adapting 13th Age to Glorantha by adding specific One Unique Things, monsters, icons, heroquesting (that’s what it says – I guess it’s a Gloranthan thing) and classes. The campaign has already met its initial $39,500 goal and has crushed several stretch goals already, inclduing a full chapter in 13th Age in Glorantha to let you use trolls as PCs with the promise of those always-mentioned Gloranthan ducks (think Donald, Scrooge, et al.) a few thousand dollars away. 13th Age in Glorantha does require a copy of 13th Age to play, while The Gloranthan Source Book, as mentioned above, is free from any pesky rules. There is also more information on the official web site. To wit: I learned that “Heroquesting to set things right, or to at least set things into a place that isn’t infested with demon-goat larva, is the focus of the default campaign style.” So there you have it: demon-goat larva. You know, like happens sometimes. You can get both PDFs for $35 or both hardcover books for $80 (plus lots of other prices for things separately or other rewards) through the Kickstarter campaign.

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19. September 2014 by Michael
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Impressions of Warmachine Tactics Early Access from Whitemoon Dreams, Inc. – Heavy Metal Tactical Combat

Warmachine Tactics Screenshot Menoth versus CygnarI was a pretty early adopter of the Warmachine tabletop tactical game. While Warhammer has grown on me over the years, at the time Warmachine’s sleek aesthetic and smaller unit count made it a much more attractive option to me and so I bought a couple of armies (Menoth and Cygnar, I believe) used and got to painting. Well, some. As of this time (many, many years later) the Menoth army is painted, but that Cygnar army still isn’t. I did get to play a few games against a buddy who bought the Cryx army and I really liked it, but I also learned that I am not built for organized play in public spaces in any fashion. I love the idea of gaming leagues, but I really dislike the idea of playing against strangers.

Given all of that, I can fairly say I was interested when I saw that Whitemoon Dreams was working with Privateer Press to make Warmachine Tactics. I didn’t buy in immediately, but I read this rather good article over on Dread Gazebo yesterday and thought ‘You know, I really should throw some money at that.’ And so I did, gaining access to the Early Access version of Warmachine Tactics.

First, I tried out the Singleplayer Campaign. I soon realized that I was out of my depth in terms of the controls of the game. I was particular displeased to find that I could not freely rotate the camera with the middle mouse button. The left and right buttons work fine, but it did throw me off for a bit. Similarly, you can’t move the camera side-to-side with the middle mouse button, either, instead scrolling to the edge of the screen or using the keyboard. Before long, I turned off the single player game and watched the three tutorial videos available from Whitemoon Dreams on Youtube. The controls aren’t hard, but it was helpful to be reminded of some of the rules to Warmachine. Warmachine Tactics is not a one-to-one analogue for the tabletop game. With that said, from my memory of the game, it seems to capture the essence of the thing pretty well. Hardcore tabletop players may disagree, but it certainly feels like Warmachine to me and, while it may not be the perfect port some were hoping for, that’s a good first step.

Warmachine Tactics is, at least, turn-based and seems to honor many of the tropes of the tabeltop game: Each player controls a Caster that assigns points to different Jacks (the warmachines in question) as well as possibly partnering with human troops as well. Everything looks great so long as your computer can push it on High or Awesome video mode. Below that and, frankly, the whole things looks like a blurry mess. My computer, which handles lots of games just fine, could rarely get over 20 FPS and, in the heat of battle, tended to hang around 15. I also had some pretty mild input lag and there are still some things to work out in the UI, for sure, but the game is still in Early Access, so I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt. I did have one instance where it wouldn’t recognize me telling a unit to stand up until a deselected and selected it again.

That said, the core game experience seems incredibly solid to me. Everything looks alive (as mentioned before), you can customize your army (the ‘base’ game comes with the four ‘main’ armies: Cygnar, Khador, Menoth and Cryx, with each army giving you twelve or thirteen units (some of which are still coming soon), which should give you a lot of army building flexibility for each of them, for $39.99. There is also a Digital Deluxe Edition that includes enough Mercenaries to make a Mercenary Army (or plug them into your other configurations) plus the War Jacks and Casters from the Apotheosis expansion. Each turn in the game I played took about five minute.s I would strongly recommend that, if you’re going to wade in, you create your own army first. My base Menoth Army (with two human units) was utterly unequipped to take down my opponent’s all-Jack Cygnar army. It was a solid facepunching I took. Of course, maybe I’m just awful. That said, I had quite a good time. The map I played on had some cover on the edges but was mostly wide-open and the game took an hour or so to play. As mentioned, everything looks cool, and the game feels very tactical. You need to be careful to keep yourself in cover (if you’re a melee-heavy army like mine, especially, my massive Crusader got shot to death as it tried to walk across the battlefield – I should have kept to the outskirts) and how close you are keeping your Jacks to your Caster so that you can assign them points for bonus attacks or to power them up. Each Caster has their own set of spells and a one-per-battle super ability, too, and many units have their own special attacks as well. The base set, as mentioned, gives you a bunch of units to play around with. Honestly, the biggest thing I’m looking forward to at this point is asynchronous play (basically a necessity for this type of game in modern days) which is a promised feature for the future. Once that is in, I imagine I’ll be logging a lot of hours in Warmachine Tactics. Another nice point is that, as new multiplayer maps are released, they will always be free (meaning you can always take your base set units and fight on whatever maps are available) with units and singleplayer campaigns being available as DLC (the initial release will include a 21 mission singleplayer campaign which looks like it will be out around November from what I can find). I may have gotten whooped the one time I played, but I’m definitely looking back to getting into it and playing more once it is not such a huge time sink in a single setting. I love the vibe of Warmachine and Warmachine Tactics gives me the feel of playing the tabletop game (including army customization) without having to go into public. That’s a win for me.

That said, the price is a bit of a stick-wicket for those that didn’t back on Kickstarter. As mentioned above, the Digital Deluxe Edition is $65, which is pretty expensive. Am I enjoying it? Absolutely. Plus, earlier complaints that only the Digital Deluxe version was available are now allayed, since I understand the Standard Edition at $39.99 that will be the final retail price. Once asynchronous multiplayer and the campaign are added, Warmachine Tactics looks like it should be a pretty rad game. Right now, it still has some bugs to work out, for sure, and final pricing for DLC is not set from what I can find, but I enjoyed the game of it I played. It looks nice (on High or Awesome) and it is a reasonably-faithful recreation of the Warmachine experience, if not the actual rules of the game itself (I particularly miss the shutting down of systems on the Jacks as they are damaged, but not enough to effect my enjoyment).

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18. September 2014 by Michael
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Feng Shui 2 – The Action Movie RPG from Robin D. Laws Roundhouse Kicks Kickstarter

If you like roleplaying games at all, you are probably familiar (or you should be) with the work of Robin D. Laws. Laws’ list of designed tabletop RPGs is too extensive to list here, although recent standouts include Hillfolk and the GUMSHOE line. Back in the 19 and 90’s (which seems way longer ago than it has any right to, Laws also designed a game called Feng Shui (originally released in 1996) set in the same world as Laws’ Shadowfist collectible card game. Feng Shui was a cinematic RPG set in a high-adrenaline Hong Kong-movie-style world.  While there was a follow-up edition printed in 1999, the world of Feng Shui has been pretty silent since Glimpse of the Abyss was released for Feng Shui back in 2007. Not so anymore, as Robin D. Laws and Atlas Games have taken to Kickstarter to fund a new edition of Feng Shui. First, from what is shown on the Kickstarter, the art looks rad. Seriously, it gets me in the mood to try Feng Shui 2 out just looking at it. As for gameplay, Feng Shui 2 players can “(c)hoose between a wide array of action flick archetypes. Be an icy-cool killer, a determined martial artist, a maverick cop, a crusty old master, a clanking cyborg, a highway ronin, or a melancholy ghost.” $10 gets you a copy of Feng Shui 2 in PDF format and a hard copy of the book costs $50 with other items available at various backing levels, like PDF packs of classic Feng Shui products, dice and the GM screen for Feng Shui 2. Plus, anyone backing at the $10 level or above gets access to the current draft of Feng Shui 2, which is basically my favorite feature of any RPG Kickstarter.  Feng Shui 2 has already blown past its first three stretch goals (including unlocking a new archetype and full color interior), so it will certainly be interesting to see what comes in terms of additional goals in the future. More information on Feng Shui 2 is available on Kickstarter.

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17. September 2014 by Michael
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SteamWorld Heist, turn-based strategy psuedo-sequel to SteamWorld Dig, teaser trailer released

 

SteamWorld Heist - Top Hat Robot

You see? Top hat robot. That means it’s a gentleman.

I didn’t really expect to love SteamWorld Dig. I mean, I didn’t really know what to expect from it at all, but it turned into one of those games that I just played and played until I got to the end. I know that some people complained about the length of SteamWorld Dig (which is currently part of the Humble Indie Bundle 12 until that runs out and is well worth grabbing), but I found it to be rather pleasant (6 hours logged on Steam). Now, Image & Form – the studio behind SteamWorld Dig – has announced SteamWorld Heist.  What could have been a simple sequel to SteamWorld Dig (I would’ve been jazzed about that as well) is, instead, apparently going to be a turn-based strategy game. There’s not a ton of information available on SteamWorld Heist, but there are a couple of interviews out there like this one on Gamasutra and this one on Pulp365. This blurb from Image & Form itself, however, is what sells the game (aside from the still-awesome art): “In short: space adventures and survival. You’re the captain of a team of ragtag robots who explore and scavenge the remains of a destroyed world. You board enemy ships and command your crew in a unique variety of turn-based combat.” Man, does that sound awesome. I really hope that they can bring the amazing sense of pacing that made Dig so hard to put down into the turn-based strategy arena. SteamWorld Heist is set in the same universe as SteamWorld Dig, but takes place years later when everyone wears top hats instead of cowboy hats. Hats are very important. But you knew this. Heist has a web site, but it’s pretty spartan at this point, although I’m sure that will change over time . SteamWorld Heist is currently scheduled for a Spring 2015 release, so that means that the wait won’t be too long. I hope. Looking forward to see more of it as it gets further in development.

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16. September 2014 by Michael
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Impressions of SanctuaryRPG – A turn-based ASCII RPG from Black Shell Games

In a recent wander-about over on itch.io, I came across SanctuaryRPG from Black Shell Games. First thing worth noting: It is free. Mind you, I paid for it, but you don’t have to. I certainly wasn’t sure what to expect when I loaded up the game (except for a text-based RPG of some sort), but I have enjoyed my time with SanctuaryRPG so far, for sure. According to the web site, “SanctuaryRPG is a critically acclaimed strategic turn-based monster slaying and dungeon crawling adventure set entirely in the retro ASCII-art world of Sanctuary” that draws “inspiration from both modern roguelikes and traditional Japanese RPGs.” I can certainly see both influences. You can play the game without permadeath but, first, that would make you a bad person and, second, I don’t know how that goes because I haven’t tried it yet. So there’s the roguelike aspect: Death is either permanent or, at least, very punishing. There are also the occasional random event wherein absurd events may end up healing, hurting or leading to treasure. I’ve made it to level 20 with my current character as of this writing with about an hour into this character (my previous best was level 11) and you always need to be paying attention. I have a tendency to move too fast, having learned how to use my combos and feeling reasonably good about my health. Not paying attention leads to death in SanctuaryRPG. Fast. In combat, you have several different attacks to choose from each of which combos into other attacks. As you attack you work towards building your Ultimate attack, which you can use to destroy your foes even more quickly. The combat very much plays out like a turn-based JRPG: You make your selection from the menu and the enemies attach you simultaneously. You have to watch out for status effects, taking time to heal or break free of an Ensnare effect or, again, your character just won’t last long. I tend to play the combat fast, like I’m under a timer, but that’s not a requirement. In fact, events (like the ability to grapple) may occur during combat as well if you are paying attention. The ASCII art is great, too, and conveys a world that feels surprisingly alive (if silly and obsessed with potatoes – Seriously, this is a goofy game) for something made of text characters. I actually tend to forget that the game is just ASCII art, anyway. There’s a lot to do (so far, I can run a tavern, craft new equipment and do coliseum fights) and there’s never any waiting around since a new area or new equipment or whatever is usually only a couple of button pushes away. It also reminds me quite a lot of my days playing MUDs, which is nice, as well, since that gives me the warm fuzzy nostalgias. Still, even if you don’t have that experience, SanctuaryRPG is quite a lot of fun so long as you can get past the fact that it doesn’t have graphics not, you know, made of text.

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15. September 2014 by Michael
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Review: Hack ‘n’ Slash from Double Fine

There weren’t many games I was more excited about than Hack ‘n’Slash from Double Fine Entertainment over the past few years. So when it finally hit version 1 .0 last week I jumped on it. I just finished the main story and thought to myself, ‘Self, you should take this opportunity to wow your thoughtful on the Internet. No one ever thinks to put their opinions there.’

And so, here we are. First, for those not already familiar, Hack ‘n’ Slash was originally developed as part of Double Fine’s Amnesia Fortnight a little while back (it was pitched in 2012, I believe). The premise is fascinating: instead of taking on enemies through sheer force you do so by altering the very code of the game. And so, as soon as you find a sword in the game you find out it cannot directly hurt enemies or cut bushes but you can use it to reprogram enemies (by changing variables) or make a bush be set from not burning to, wwell, burning. Over the course of the game, the level of control you have over the code within the game grows until, at the end, where you can really break the game (day, by creating bad functions). The game looks like the Legend of Zelda, but it’s really a puzzle game and the puzzle you have to solve is how you need to change the code to progress. Of course, your control over the code is never absolute, but it is pretty impressive and – towards the end of the game – it gets insanely deep as you go inside the code of the things that you are inside the code of in some sort of crazy code-Inception.

So, I love the premise. The graphics are good enough, they are pleasingly cartoon-y, even if I always think that 2D drawings moving on a 3D plane is a little weird. It’s common enough, so it’s not really a problem, but I always find it slightly off-putting. Still, Hack ‘n’ Slash suffers from one major problem: The pacing. To put it mildly, the pacing is incredibly uneven. The game has four chapters to play through, but there isn’t a whole lot of game until the end of the third. The combat, such as it is, largely revolves around swinging your ‘sword’ to change some variables on one of the objects in the game. Is it neat? Heck yes it’s neat, but it’s not terribly challenging. And then you get to the end of that third chapter and the difficulty spikes like crazy. All of the sudden you’re dealing with full strings of code and trying to parse them to figure out which thing you need to change to solve the puzzle and move to the next room. I crashed the game more than a few times (although it does recover itself and it gets an A+ for saving at each room so if you do something exceptionally stupid you can go back in time before you changed the code of the game in said particularly stupid way, which I really only had to do once). I know just enough about coding to get the through the game, which I did at about 6 hours, but if a person didn’t know anything about coding the first 2/3 of the game would not have prepared them at all for the end of the game. And then, once you start to get the hang of the game, and you really see the power of having all of the code at your disposal and things start to open up a little, boom, the game is over. This is not a game length problem, mind you. It’s a complaint that the game changes fundamentally most of the way through the game and then walks off the edge.

So, that makes it sound like I didn’t like it, doesn’t it? That’s not the case. I do not, in the least, regret buying Hack ‘n’ Slash. It does something that I have never seen or heard of a game doing before and that, for me, is worth applause and a purchase. It may be for you, as well, but understand that you are buying a premise. There’s some insanely cool potential there, but it is mostly at the end of the game. The story is entertaining enough (including a few chuckle-worthy lines and, generally, good writing), being of a lighthearted, jokey sort of thing. There is the promise of modding the future, too, which might do some pretty neat things, as well, but that’s certainly a wait-and-see situation. I’m sure some people would find the length a little off-putting, but I’m sure you could spend more time messing around with the code of the game if you understand it better than I do (which is not a terribly high bar), but I just wish that the pacing had been a little more even. So, all in all, for me, this was a worthy purchase. But should you buy Hack ‘n’ Slash from Double Fine Entertainment? Unless you  are really taken with the premise, that would be a much harder recommendation to make.

Hack ‘n’ Slash from Double Fine Entertainment is available now and regularly costs $19.99.

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14. September 2014 by Michael
Categories: Reviews, Video Games | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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