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Yoshi Wii Remote Plus coming to Europe alongside Mario Kart 8

Following the royal unveiling of Princess Peach's Wiimote Plus, Nintendo of Europe is making sure all four Mario Kart 8 multi-players can have a mascot-themed controller to hand. When the racer launches on May 30, Europeans can get both the Peach controller and a new Yoshi one, and join them up with the Mario and Luigi Wiimotes already out.

Stateside, Nintendo of America released the Peach Wii Remote Plus earlier this week, but this is the first we've seen of the Yoshi controller. As things stand, Americans will be forced to limit Mario Kart 8 to three-way couch multiplayer with Luigi, Mario and Peach remotes, and that's not on. Surely Nintendo doesn't expect the fourth player to have a regular Wii Remote Plus, or - gasp - one of the controllers another player has? That's just obscene.
[Image: Nintendo]

Soulcalibur: Lost Swords issues make game unplayable, 'launch delayed'

Free-to-play fighter Soulcalibur: Lost Swords may be available in the West now, but players are complaining that the game is completely unplayable. In a sort of rehash of last year's Sim City issues, Lost Swords requires players to connect to its servers when launching and playing the game, despite being a single-player experience. Sure enough, that's the point players can't get past at the moment. Instead, the PS3 game eventually produces an error code message and then sends players back to the title screen. Player reports on Twitter, Facebook and the PlayStation Blog indicate the problem is widespread, although it does seem that some players have managed to access and play the game.

We tested it out this morning, and while we managed to register a profile and create a character, we weren't able to access Lost Swords gameplay across several attempts. The only mode the game let us select was Quests, and when trying to load up the initial tutorial quest, it produced an error code for a lost connection to the server, and returned us to the title screen. Lost Swords also wouldn't let us load it without signing into PSN beforehand - it's not clear why exactly that's been implemented, although a key feature of Lost Swords is being able to download other players' characters to use as tag-in allies in battle.

For its part, Bandai Namco America has acknowledged a "technical issue that has delayed the launch of the game" - for the record, Lost Swords remains available to download on the PlayStation Store, and the game itself makes no note about a delayed launch.

"We have discovered that the issue requires a resolution across multiple parties and therefore our efforts to remedy the issue is taking longer than anticipated." the publisher said last night on the Soulcalibur Facebook page. "Currently we are working feverishly with a key partner to implement a solution in the shortest amount of time possible."

[Thanks, JC!]
[Image: Bandai Namco]

Evolve gameplay is all about the hunt

2K Games and Turtle Rock Studios launched an interactive trailer this morning for Evolve, the four versus one mulitplayer game coming this fall to next-gen consoles and PC. There's about an hour of content in the video above and if you want more you can check out our video preview.

Mario Kart 8 Wii U bundles unveiled for Europe

Nintendo confirmed the long-rumored Mario Kart 8 Wii U bundle for Europe today, but there's no word yet if it's skidding along to North America. The Premium bundle packs in the 32GB black Wii U with the racer and all the usual accessories within. It's launching alongside the game on May 30, priced £250 in the UK according to Nintendo's store.

For £50 more, players can align with one of Nintendo's plumber brothers in Mario and Luigi themed Wii U packs (check out the Luigi one above). The fraternal packages bundle in your choice of red or green hats, GamePad protectors, Wii U wheels and non-additional Wii Remote Plus controllers, as well as a game guide. The Mario and Luigi bundles look to be limited to the UK and exclusive to Nintendo's online store.

Mario Kart 8 brings the long-running racer series into HD splendor for the first time. As our video preview shows, it also features new elements like zero-g racing, piranha plant items, and everyone's favorite assortment of monstrous offspring, the Koopa Kids.
[Image: Nintendo]

XCOM: Enemy Unknown gets acquainted with Android, out now

XCOM: Enemy Unknown is out now on Google Play, commander. The new Android port is priced $10/£7.14, and according to a message from XCOM HQ, an advance on the Amazon Appstore is expected "soon."

Despite claiming the lives of many of our best friends - or at least a bunch of soldiers named after them - we ranked Enemy Unknown as our second-best game of 2012. The good news: Firaxis transitioned the console and PC release into a "slick, portable package" on iOS, and hopefully that'll pan out the same way on Android.

New Ace Attorney trailer showcases characters, courtroom, cherry blossoms

The first trailer for the new Meiji era Ace Attorney shows us the stars of the 3DS game and their more classic courtroom backdrop. There's not any gameplay to go on, but we do get a good look at Ryuunosuke Naruhodo, ancestor of one Phoenix Wright, and the lady who's likely his assistant in floral dress, Mikatoba Susato.

According to Court-Records.net, Susato is an "ideal Japanese woman" who's a lover of foreign detectives and a progressive dreamer. Knowing the Ace Attorney series, there's probably a bit more to her than that.

Capcom only just announced the game for Japan, so no surprise that there's no word on the turn-of-the-20th-century adventure turning out for the West. In the interim, you can dream via a translated version of the new trailer.
[Image: Famitsu]

Steam Midweek Madness: Portal 2, Octodad: Dadliest Catch

Portal 2 and Octodad: Dadliest Catch have a lot in common: Both are born from an independent developer concept; both feature a clueless collection of non-playable characters; and they each explore the absurdity of the human condition. Now, thanks to a Midweek Madness sale, both are available for a discounted price on Steam.

Portal 2 is available for $4.99, 75 percent off its regular price (or $8.74 for two copies for co-op adventures. Octodad: Dadliest Catch can be added to your Steam library for $9.99, 33 percent off (or $13.33 for the game and soundtrack; which, shockingly, does include the Lionel Richie classic "Stuck on You"). Each sale ends at 10am Pacific on Friday, April 25.

In other deal-related news, the newly released music exploration game FRACT OSC is available for 10 percent off ($13.49) until 10am Pacific on April 29.
[Image: Young Horses]

China to restrict game sales based on content like gambling, violence

Since China temporarily lifted its ban on foreign video game consoles in January, it was a matter of time before the government offered new rules to regulate console and game distribution. According to a Shanghai government release translated by Games in Asia, those rules will dictate the kind of content that won't be allowed to be sold in the country, such gambiling-related game features.

Additionally, anything deemed threatening to "China's national unity, sovereignty, or territorial integrity" and content that "instigates racial/ethnic hatred" won't be distributable in the country. Games also may not promote "obscenity, drug use, violence or gambling," as well as cults and superstitions. Approved games cannot violate China's constitution, nor can they harm its culture, traditions and public ethics.

The policies state that foreign companies must work with a local company to produce consoles within the Shanghai Free Trade Zone, such as Sony's PlayStation 4 or Microsoft's Xbox One, the latter of which arrived in 26 more regions just last month. Plus, games in China must go through an approval process with Shanghai's culture department, which will take "no longer than 20 days." This applies to game updates with new content, such as DLC, even if the game itself was already approved. Lastly, all console games will be required to have a simplified Chinese version, so publishers won't be able to simply re-sell Hong Kong and Taiwan versions of their games.
[Image: Microsoft]

Twitch, Newegg put $20,000 into High School StarLeague scholarship

High School StarLeague organizes esports competitions for high school students in North America, and this season it's offering a scholarship of more than $20,000 for the winners of its finals round in June. Twitch and Newegg each contributed $10,000 to High School StarLeague for the scholarship.

"Through tournaments and scholarships, we plan to prepare our aspiring and talented gamers for the professional gaming scene, while simultaneously ensuring success in their education and character development outside of the game," High School StarLeague COO Jesse Wang said in a press release.

Games included in the tournament are League of Legends, Dota 2 and StarCraft 2. The High School StarLeague 2013-2014 finals take place in June in Southern California, and they'll be broadcast live on Twitch.
[Image: High School StarLeague]

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Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls soundtrack now available

The epic soundtrack from Blizzard's first Diablo 3 expansion is upon us, featuring such cheery song titles as "Paths of the Drowned" and, sure-to-be wedding first dance fave, "Blood for Blood." The Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls soundtrack is available via iTunes for $9.99 (or $1.29 per song, because maths) and features 22 music tracks from the expansion to Blizzard's loot simulator.

Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls launched for PC and Mac on March 25, adding a devious new act and the marvelously replayable Adventure Mode, as noted in Joystiq's review. A PlayStation 4 version featuring both Diablo 3 and the Reaper of Souls expansion is on the horizon.
[Image: Blizzard]

Get Red Orchestra 2 for free on Steam, offer expires soon

Update: The offer expires on April 24 at 10am Pacific.

Developer Tripwire Interactive is giving Steam users a freebie. Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad, a World War 2-themed tactical shooter, is available for free. Like Valve did with Left 4 Dead 2 some months ago, the game is yours to keep forever as long as it's added to your Steam account within the giveaway period.

Tripwire Interactive will parlay its gifting mood into a free Steam weekend featuring Red Orchestra 2's Rising Storm expansion. During the free trial period of the expansion, Rising Storm will be available for purchase at a discounted price.

To grab Red Orchestra 2 for free, simply "add" it to your account from the game's Steam store page. Tripwire's shooter is regularly priced at $9.99.
[Image: Tripwire Interactive]

Zynga founder Pincus steps down, Xbox Live GM to head Zynga Studios

Zynga Co-Founder Mark Pincus is stepping down as Chief Product Officer of Zynga, the social gaming company announced alongside its first quarter 2014 financial results today. Pincus will continue to serve in a non-operational capacity as Zynga's Chairman of the Board, a role he held in addition to company CEO until Don Mattrick was named CEO in July 2013.

Additionally, Alex Garden was announced as President of Zynga Studios in the report. Garden departs Microsoft as the general manager of Xbox Live and Xbox Music, Video and Reading. Prior to that, he was CEO of Nexon Publishing North America. Garden will report directly to Mattrick, much like Zynga's new chief financial officer David Lee, who was hired this month as well.

Zynga also added visual effects artist Henry LaBounta as the developer's chief visual officer. LaBounta worked with Electronic Arts and Microsoft Studios, and previously was visual effects supervisor at DreamWorks on the films Minority Report and A.I. Artificial Intelligence.
[Image: Zynga]

Games for Health 2014 includes keynote by Papo & Yo dev

Vander Caballero, the creative director at Papo & Yo developer Minority Media, will be giving a keynote speech at this year's Games For Health conference. Caballero's speech will focus on his work creating Papo & Yo - which was based largely on Caballero's experiences growing up with an abusive, alcoholic father - as well as Minority's upcoming game about bullying (and terrifying crow people), Silent Enemy.

This year is the 10th for the annual Games for Health conference, which aims to "foster awareness of, education about, and development of games that make a positive impact on the health of communities and health care," according to the official site. Games for Health will run June 18 - 20 at the Back Bay Events Center in Boston. Registration is now open for those hoping to attend.
[Image: Minority Media]

Come on feel the toys: What's new in Skylanders Trap Team

Knowing full well that kids love catching them all when there are even more to catch, Activision announced Skylanders Trap Team for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Wii U, Nintendo 3DS, PS3, and Xbox 360. The latest entry in the franchise follows up last year's Skylanders: Swap Force and introduces the ability to not only buy many, many heroic action figures but also the ability to trap the game's enemies and turn them to the light.

Developed by Toys For Bob, which hasn't led development since 2012's Skylanders: Giants, Trap Team expands the compulsive collectable nature of the game. The game comes with a brand new NFC portal that reads not just the usual Skylanders toys, but new crystal toys. When fighting specific villains in the game like goofy old man Chompy Mage, plugging a trap crystal into the base actually sucks up the villain making them a usable character. There are 40 trappable villains in the game, and you can switch between one trapped villain and one regular Skylander figure on the fly, adding a tag team element to the Zelda style brawling that's the series' signature.

Toys For Bob is adding 60 new Skylanders as well, including the Trapmasters, a new class equipped with giant weapons made of "Traptanium," the same fictional substance the toys for trapping villains are made of.

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Nine minutes of futuristic cell phone use in Watch Dogs multiplayer

Image In a nine-minute walkthrough of Watch Dogs' multiplayer component, Animation Director Colin Graham takes us through streets filled with people staring at their phones. It's the future. Watch Dogs is due out on May 27 for PC, Xbox One, PS4, PS3 and Xbox 360.... Continue Reading

Beefcake Braum is League of Legends' next champion

League of Legends' next champion will be the beefy barbarian Braum, developer Riot Games has revealed. The Freljord native will take up his massive shield to block projectiles and soak up damage from enemy champions. The official League of Legends site has more details on this magnificently mustachioed man, who is, according to Riot, the game's "first true tank support" character.

Braum is a support champion, meaning he won't be dealing out much damage of his own, but rather helping his teammates survive and taking the hits for them when he can. That doesn't mean he won't be useful in a fight, though. His "Winter's Bite" ability shoots a line of ice out from his shield, dealing magic damage and slowing those it catches. The "Stand By Me" ability causes Braum to leap to a nearby ally, positioning himself between them and the nearest enemy champion. This move also grants both Braum and the ally a boost to armor and magic resistance. His "Unbreakable" ability lifts Braum's shield and causes projectiles coming contact with it to be destroyed. Lastly, Braum's ultimate ability, "Glacial Fissure," sends out a long-range attack that knocks enemies into the air and slows them.

Braum is currently available on the League of Legends beta servers, and is expected to make his way to the main game soon.
[Image: Riot Games]

Project Cars takes drivers on 'the ultimate journey' in November

Need for Speed: Shift developer Slightly Mad Studios announced that its sim-styled racer Project Cars is due to hit the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Wii U, and PC platforms in November.

Project Cars demonstrates its slick presentation and advanced damage modeling in the newly released trailer above. Slightly Mad recently announced that Project Cars will be one of the first games to feature support for Sony's upcoming Project Morpheus virtual reality headset.

[Image: Slightly Mad Studios]

Report picks apart relationship between Metacritic and Steam sales

Ars Technica has released a new installment of their Steam Gauge project, where the website analyzes Valve's digital distribution service and its impact on the games industry. This time, they've explored the connection (or possible lack thereof) between Metacritic scores and number of sales on Steam. Do higher Metacritic scores correspond to a higher number of Steam sales? Unfortunately, the answer isn't as simple as a "yes" or "no."

Initially, things look disjointed. Ars notes that "a game with an 80 on Metacritic ... is just as likely to bring in about 56,000 estimated Steam sales (at the 25th percentile) as it is to earn 375,000 estimated Steam sales (at the 75th percentile)." However, looking at the median sales and aggregating Metacritic scores into 10-point ranges, a more identifiable trend emerges. According to Ars' estimates, a game with a median Metacritic score of 90 or higher will sell 50 times the amount of copies that a game with a Metacritic of 30 or lower sells.

Some caveats: Ars Technica's data represents estimates based on publicly-available information, and Metacritic itself weighs reviews from different sites differently. One man's trash may be another man's treasure, but Metacritic may be inclined to agree with one side more than the other. Also, the data analyzed doesn't take into account discount events such as the Steam sales - which we all know are the bank account's natural enemy - so there are additional factors that could be at play here. Lastly, Ars notes that individual games may buck the trend: Orion: Dino Horde has a Metacritic rating of 36, yet an estimated 314,000 Steam sales, while NBA 2K13, despite its rating of 90 on Metacritic, has only sold an estimated 50,000 copies on Steam.

Nonetheless, there appears to be some sort of correlation between higher Metacritic ratings and higher sales on Steam. Causation, though? Maybe not so much. And while this information might seem like common sense, now there are numbers to back up your intuitions.
[Image: Metacritic]

Artist Omocat's surreal RPG Omori channels its inner Earthbound

Omori, a "surreal, exploration, horror RPG" from webcomic artist Omocat bears fleeting similarities to popular games like Nintendo's Earthbound, which may be what pushed it past its $22,000 goal on Kickstarter in just over one day.

Omori has players traveling between two worlds, exploring their own memories and uncovering some "hidden truths" between turn-based battles, which are listed as "traditional," though they feature untraditional player statuses "based off real human emotions and conditions." The game is written, directed and illustrated by Omocat with a soundtrack courtesy of chiptune artists Slime Girls and Space Boyfriend, the latter of which directly cites Earthbound, Animal Crossing and Persona as inspirations for the game's music. It is in development for PC and will come to Mac if the project crosses its $50,000 stretch goal.

Omocat expects to deliver Omori to backers by May 2015 according to the project's reward tiers, which includes a $15 level that grants donors a copy of the game.
[Image: Omocat]

FTC clears Facebook's purchase of Oculus VR

Facebook has earned U.S. antitrust approval to purchase Oculus VR, clearing the way for its acquisition of the company and its Oculus Rift VR headset technology, Reuters reports.

The U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission approved the acquisition this week. Facebook announced its purchase plans last month, revealing that it will pay $2 billion to acquire Oculus VR and its assets.

Oculus VR crowdfunded its headset technology in 2012, later expanding its development team with the addition of former Valve software engineer Tom Forsyth, University of Illinois robotics scientist Steve Lavelle, and id Software co-founder John Carmack. The Oculus Rift headset has sold over 85,000 units to date.

[Image: Oculus VR]

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Latest episode: Friday, April 18th, 2014

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