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Unlike The Movie, The Blair Witch Game Doesn’t Seem So Scary

If you’re familiar with its source material, Blair Witch, the upcoming game for PC and consoles, has a lot to live up to. It’s impossible to understate the influence of 1999’s The Blair Witch Project, a found footage film that blurred the line between fact and fiction and emphasized a slow-burn dread over outright scares. Few horror works are as distinct, and Blair Witch, the forthcoming game, is an attempt to create a video game rendition of that film’s slowly encroaching horror. After playing a short demo of it a few weeks ago, I’m not sure it will succeed.

In the early 1990s, filmmakers Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez made a horror film disguised as a documentary. It was about a group of young people who went deep into the woods of Maryland to find a witch who supposedly haunted the region, only they never made it back. The filmmakers marketed the fictional movie as a real documentary, even suggesting the stars—unknowns who played characters they shared real names with—were actually missing.

In 1999 The Blair Witch Project was released to phenomenal success, fueled in part by speculation: though Myrick and Sánchez were frank about the true nature of their film in interviews at the time, audiences still thought the movie’s events might have been real. The success of The Blair Witch Project essentially invented a genre of film and changed horror in ways that are felt today in various media, including video games.

Twenty years later, recorded footage, slow-burn horror, and the notion of being stalked by an unkillable madness-inducing entity are all part of the horror game bag of tricks, popularized, ironically, by streaming. With games like Five Nights at Freddy’s, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, and Outlast influencing a whole new generation of horror, it’s the perfect time for a Blair Witch video game in the modern horror mold.

In this Blair Witch, developed by Bloober Team, the Polish studio behind Layers of Fear and Observer, you play as Ellis, a former cop who joins the search for a boy named Peter Shannon who has gone missing in the woods of Maryland circa 1996. You’re alone, with the exception of your dog (which you can pet), occasional radio calls from others, and whatever might be lurking in the woods.

My demo session with Blair Witch wasn’t conducive to the extended descent into the forests and my own paranoia the game seems designed for. I played a series of five vignettes from various parts of the game, each about 5 to 10 minutes long. In these vignettes, I began my trek through the woods, was chased by an entity I could not see, got lost in a tunnel, fended off monsters with my flashlight, and finally approached the home where the eponymous witch lures their prey.

It was a varied taste of what Blair Witch has to offer, but it was at odds with the kind of experience players will likely have in the final game, which I was told is one continuous experience not broken up into levels or sections. So while I got to see a lot of the game, nothing really had an effect on me—the anticipation and dread so necessary for horror like this to work was more or less absent thanks to this presentation. Beyond one or two jump scares, the game never got in my head. The monsters were barely visible, vaguely humanoid blurs that rushed through the woods and were scared away by pointing my flashlight at them. They weren’t all that creepy, and the woods never felt sprawling enough to get lost in.

Aesthetically, the game nails the movie’s feel. The dense, plain-looking forests felt sinister, and the crude wooden symbols from the movie were strewn around as creepy collectibles. I just can’t be sure if it’s to an effective end, since I was unable to linger in any moment of this game for too long.

Though my time with this truncated version of the game left me skeptical, Blair Witch could still work when I get the full game, turn off the lights, and play through it in a night or two. There’s some good stuff here—your dog, Bullet, is not susceptible to the Witch’s Curse and is impervious to the visions that plague your character over time. He’s kind of a compass or early warning sign, so you get antsy when he’s not around or starts barking at things you can’t see. In the demo, I got nervous when Bullet started barking, filled with the kind of dread that’s good for a horror game.

Blair Witch’s approach to found footage is pretty fun as well. In certain areas, you find tapes you can play on your handheld camcorder. Tapes show you something that happened in the place where you stand, and by watching them you can change the environment. A door that’s shut in front of you might be opened on the tape, so if you scrub to that moment and then look up, you’ll find the door open. It’s a neat, unsettling trick that, while very simple, could lead to some fun moments. There are also great, creepy instances when you have to navigate with the camera—what you see on its screen can be very different from what’s in front of you.

Throughout the demo, the Bloober Team developers present stressed that they didn’t want to make their Blair Witch a translation of any particular film or prior text. While the events of the movie happened in the world of the game, the developers want their take on Blair Witch to be something other than a slavish reproduction of the film. The game has the vibe of the movies—dense woods, creepy abandoned homes—, but it also feels like a modern horror game. You don’t have a weapon, just your flashlight, your camera, and your radio or cell phone. You rummage through shelves and discarded items, finding spooky photographs and turning them over in your hands for possible clues.

At the same time, a horror game with an unarmed, first-person protagonist trying to solve a mystery has been done before in ways that felt more frightening than what I experienced of Blair Witch. I hope that when taken as a whole on August 30, Blair Witch will feel more like a proper, dread-filled Blair Witch experience—or even just a solid horror game.

Source: Kotaku.com

Get Your First Look at Power Rangers: Beast Morphers’ Legendary Gold Ranger

Hello there, Beast Morpher Gold!
Image: Hasbro

Power Rangers (and its Japanese predecessor, Super Sentai) is no stranger to additional rangers joining the team mid-show. The latest entry in the series, Beast Morphers, is no exception—and io9 has your very first look at its new Gold Ranger in action, as well as a chat with the man himself!

io9 can exclusively confirm that Abraham Rodriguez—who plays Grid Battleforce tech genius Nate Silva on the show—will officially be stepping up to join Devon, Ravi, and Zoey as the Gold Ranger. Nate will step into the shiny supersuit in this week’s episode, “The Cybergate Opens” and you can see the first moment he dons the suit in a new clip below, making its debut here on io9!

To celebrate the occasion, we spoke to Rodriguez over email to get a hint of what Power Rangers fans can expect from Nate’s transition from team support to full-time superhero.

io9: How long have you known that Nate’s journey would lead to him joining the Beast Morphers—what was your reaction the moment you found out yourself?

Abraham Rodriguez: The same day I found out that I booked the role of Nate, our phenomenal executive producer, Chip Lynn, called me from New Zealand and told me my character would become the Gold Ranger in the eighth episode. At first, I was just speechless that I booked the role. Then it hit me that I was going to be the Gold Power Ranger and be a part of the special Gold Ranger legacy forever. From the moment I arrived to our studio lot and began working, I was eager and excited to read the script to find out how my character becomes the Gold Ranger. I will never forget the high level of excitement I felt when I was finally handed a hard copy of the eighth episode. I started reading the script immediately and went through so many emotions. It was everything I dreamed it would be and more. I was so excited and ready to become a Power Ranger.

io9: Tell us a little bit about the day on set you shot the moment Nate became the Gold Ranger. What was that like for you?

Rodriguez: The day I shot the scene where Nate becomes the Gold Power Ranger will forever be one of the best experiences and memories of my life. I remember getting more and more anxious and excited as the day drew closer. Once the day finally came, I woke up so hyped, happy, and ready to film such an epic and life-changing scene for Nate. I knew that from the moment Nate became the Gold Ranger, his life would never be the same. He would never go back to being just the child genius and lead scientist, but he would also become a part of the Power Rangers team, fight against evil, and protect the Morphin Grid alongside his best friends. It was a huge character arc for Nate. I was ready to give it my all and enjoy every second of this epic and legendary transformation. I had an absolute blast filming this scene take after take. It will forever be one of my favorite scenes and always hold a special place in my heart.

io9: Judging by the clip we’re showing off, Nate’s choice to become the Gold Ranger seems more out of circumstance than his grand intent. How will such a momentous decision impact him and his role in the Grid Battleforce going forward?

Rodriguez: Nate is always thinking about how he can help his friends help the world, fight against evil, and protect the Morphin Grid from Evox, so becoming a Power Ranger himself, has helped him understand from a different perspective what it’s like going face to face with the enemy. It will also help him better develop more weapons and plans the team and himself can use to defeat Evox. Nate has an advantage of knowing the scientific realm along with now being able to fight the enemy himself with all the knowledge he has from various years of working in Grid Battleforce and developing new weaponry and tactics. He is no longer the boy behind the computer, but now also front row in the battlefield fighting evil and saving the world.

io9: You’re joining a very special legacy, not just of the Power Rangers, but one of the series’ legendary “sixth ranger” archetypes. What’s it like being in the same group of characters like Tommy Oliver’s Green Ranger all those years ago?

Rodriguez: It is such a special feeling to be a part of the Gold Ranger legacy. To be in the same group of characters as Tommy Oliver is just unreal and super awesome! It’s an honor to be a part of a special and unique group of Rangers. GO GOLD!!!


“The Cybergate Opens” hits Nickelodeon at 8 a.m. ET/PT this Saturday, April 27.


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Source: Kotaku.com

Trine 4’s Developers Want To Take The Series Back To What Worked

Screenshot: Frozenbyte (Trine 4)

The first time I played Trine, which came out in 2009, I found its combination of high-fantasy, 2D side-scrolling, and co-op puzzle solving to be such a perfect blend that I was surprised I hadn’t already played a dozen other games like it. Even since the release of Trine, there haven’t been many games like it, so I’m relieved that Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince appears to be double down on that basic formula as much as possible.

At a recent hands-off demo for the game, two developers from Frozenbyte, the studio behind Trine, told Kotaku that the studio has abandoned the 3D journey it embarked on with Trine 3 and is instead returning to the series’ 2.5D origins. “We felt that was the way for us to make the most compelling Trine game—by defining skills, puzzles, combat, everything by the 2.5D side scrolling,” said the studio’s marketing manager, Kai Tuovinen. “It’s what the fans have been asking for, what we wanted as well and the way for us to make the most complete Trine.” This return to form also happens to coincide with the series’ 10th anniversary.

Frozenbyte released Trine 3 on Steam in Early Access in April 2015. Four months later, the game was released in full, but many players felt the game was still incomplete. In addition to having somewhat poor controls, the story’s third act also felt like it had been cut short. Frozenbyte acknowledged these shortcomings and blamed them on the decision to push the series into a 3D space it couldn’t afford. “We tried to make something too ambitious, and it ended up financially impossible,” wrote Frozenbyte VP Joel Kinnunen in a Steam post at the time. “What we sold on Early Access was the ‘realistic’ vision and what we promised is what we have delivered, in our opinion.”

Screenshot: Frozenbyte (Trine 4)

This time, Frozenbyte has set out with a much more reasonable goal. Trine 4 refines and adds to the original Trine formula rather than trying to massively overhaul it. Once again, a knight, wizard, and rogue are sent on a quest; this time, they must retrieve a prince whose nightmares have begun taking shape in the real world, threatening everyone in it. The trio of heroes must traverse a labyrinth of obstacles by weaving together their disparate abilities. Trine 4’s setup will be instantly familiar to anyone who has spent any time with the previous games, but it looks like it will have better visuals and more intricate puzzles. It’ll also have some new stuff, like a seperate four-player mode in which each person can swap through their own set of the three characters independently, but for the most part it’s more Trine.

The demo began with a tutorial section for the knight, Pontious. He rolled giant pumpkin across ravines with his feet and bashed them into barriers with his shield to clear the way forward. There were also sections where magical force fields appeared, preventing him from progressing until all the enemies on the screen were defeated. The combat doesn’t look super intense, but it does encourage a type of problem solving that is different from the platforming puzzles. Defeating enemies also rewards the heroes with additional experience points they can use to unlock new abilities.

GIF: Frozenbyte (Trine 4)

A second section revolved around the home of a badger whose nightmares had been brought to life by the dark prince’s powers. A disheveled living room transitioned into an even more shambolic library, and from there, into a cavernous basement overgrown with poisonous plants. Frozenbyte’s sumptuous art direction was on full display in these areas, with the occasional beam of sunlight or warm glow of a lantern hanging gently on every little inviting detail. I’ve always wished there was a Wind in the Willows video game, and what I saw of Trine 4 inadvertently convinced me that Frozenbyte is the studio that needs to make it.

Some of the new tricks the developers showed off included the rogue Zoya’s ability to tether two objects together using a rope tied to one of her arrows. Doing this can link platforms together, or it can tie a metal ball to one of them, thereby creating a counter-weight system. It’s an elegant tool for playing around with various objects’ momentum, but it also plays to the game’s 2.5D strength, keeping the possibilities for problem-solving limited to a more manageable system.

Screenshot: Frozenbyte (Trine 4)

A lot of playing Trine comes down to shuffling through characters, abilities, and targets until some combination of them reveals a path forward. Being back in the X and Y plane helps make these periods of trial and error easier to manage. That limit in scope has also appeared to have helped Frozenbyte focus on building out the game in a systematic manner, rather trying to keep problem-solving the adaptation of the game into a third dimension. “After Trine 3, we really needed a break,” Kinnunen said. “The realization of letting people down was pretty hard on us.”

Frozenbyte spent the next year after its release working on unrelated projects before returning to begin planning out the next Trine. The team first plotted out the story, then moved to designing the levels that the game would consist of, before eventually bringing in the artists to breath life into them. Tuovinen and Kinnunen told Kotaku that Trine 4 will be the studio’s longest game ever, with several cutscenes that tell a new story, this time with an actual ending.

Source: Kotaku.com

The Transformers Card Game’s Next Delightfully Silly Combiner Set Is Superion

You’re wrong, Menasor! For you, I have nothing else!
Image: Hasbro
Toys and CollectiblesAction figures, statues, exclusives, and other merchandise. Beware: if you look here, you’re probably going to spend some money afterwards.  

Last month, Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast revealed that the first expansion for their Transformers card game would be bringing in the Combiners—which actually get laid out with each other to reveal a gigantic combined form. The Decepticons got Predaking. Now the Autobots are getting Superion.

io9 is excited to reveal the first look at the Superion cards coming in Rise of the Combiners on March 1. As with Predaking, in order to form Superion, players will have to put five different cards onto the field—specifically, of course, the Aerialbots: Air Raid, Alpha Bravo, Fireflight, Silverbolt, and Skydive.

Like all other Transformers in the game, the Aerialbots can still transform into their own vehicle forms—it’s just that, unlike most Transformers cards, you don’t actually physically flip them over to reveal their alternate stats and transformed mode. That’s because, after activating the right “Enigma” card, flipping them over and lining the right ‘bots in the right places together reveals that—when all are one—they’ve got the ginormous art of Superion on the back!

Flying in friendly skies.
Image: Hasbro

It’s a wonderful way to utilize the combining aspect of the Combiner Transformers within the mechanics of a card game—which, from the flip-to-transform double-sided cards to absurdly-giant-sized ones representing the bulkier bots already, Transformers Trading Card Game has a lot of so far. What’s next after the Combiners? We’ll have to wait and see, but I hope we’re not too far out from having to construct elaborate card structures for some really major transformations or something! Rise of the Combiners—which will also bring in triple-change Transformers to the game as well as several other new mechanics and rules tweaks—booster cards will be available starting March 1.


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Source: Kotaku.com