News: Head of Xbox Phil Spencer to Deliver Keynote Presentation at EB Expo 2016

For his first ever Australian appearance, head of Xbox  Phil Spencer is set to deliver a keynote presentation at the 2016 EB Expo. Spencer and other Xbox developers will present on Xbox’s new features and hardware on the Xbox console, as well as the “greatest exclusive Holiday title line-up.”

Spencer’s keynote will be at 11am on Friday 30th of September. You can read the full press release below.

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News: Pokémon Go Plus has a release date!

While many players were disappointed that the Pokémon GO wearable device wasn’t available at launch, the announce of Pokémon GO Plus has come at a time where some outlets are reporting a severe drop in players – even going as far as to suggest the app is dying.

Pokémon GO does have issues; the repetitiveness of the game being one of them. With a high battery consumption, people were left wondering if it was worth keeping the app open just to catch a hundred Pidgeys, and attention has turned back to other apps.

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Pokémon Shuffle to give every player 10,000 coins and 30 hearts

You could be forgiven for forgetting about Pokémon Shuffle. Pokémon’s other mobile game became a bit of a desolate place once Pokémon GO was released. For those who don’t know, Pokémon Shuffle is a freemium, match three puzzle game. Which is just a fancy way of saying that it is sorta Candy Crush but with Pokémon. You make friends with other players (up to 30), and they can send you mini-hearts once a day to keep you playing more.

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Sometimes life gets in the way of the important things–the important things being playing video games. Recently this has caused me to spend a lot of time stuck on trains, and not enough time playing video games. So I have taken to playing mobile games. I’ve never really been a big mobile gamer, as I have always had phones with awful battery lives, but beggars can’t be choosers.

Train Games reviews will focus on three main criteria: battery life, internet connectivity and whether or not it can keep my interest for at least 30 minutes. All games are played on a Sony Xperia Z2.

Train games will be rated as follows:
✔: Suitable train game
✖: Unsuitable train game
–: Okay train game

If you have any train game recommendations for me, send me a tweet at @BrittA2211.

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Pokémon Symphonic Evolutions – Sydney Opera House – 21/11/15 (Live Review)

The Sydney Opera House is by far the most iconic music venue in Australia. And I can’t help but feel a sense of childlike glee each time I see a performance there. Getting off the train at Circular Quay, overlooking the Harbour Bridge, walking past the ferry docks and approaching an international icon still feels special every time you do it. This time, I was here for Pokémon Symphonic Evolutions. This is music from the iconic Pokémon games being performed by the Sydney Symphonic Orchestra. As an avid gamer  – I was stoked.

 

Entering the venue was a bizarre mix of patrons. It ranged from 30somethings in suits – business people just the right age to have been pulled into the Pokémon universe in 1998, to parents with young kids dressed as Ash Ketchum, who have probably grown up on Pokémon since they could read. Strangely, the guy sitting next to me said he had never watched or played Pokémon, but thought he would come along to see what it was like. It is first – and most likely the only – time that I have seen the Opera House concert hall lit up with the screens of hundreds of 3DS consoles, constantly checking Streetpasses.

The night started with an emphatic version of the opening music made famous by Pokémon Red and Blue, as the covers of the game scrolled past on the screen above the orchestra. The conductor – Susie Seita – wore a long white coat, reminiscent of Professor Oak’s lab coat. Producer Jeron Moore took to the stage to explain the show to us. To tell us we were about to undertake a journey many of us had taken before, starting in Pallet Town, and picking our starter Pokémon. This was met by someone near me loudly yelling “F**K BULBASAUR!” as I sat and seethed in silence, containing my love for my favourite leafy starter Pokémon. Jeron listed the games we were about to experience, with a subtle round of booing going around the room at the mention of Pokémon Crystal. This was to be a journey from Redand Blue to X and Y.

The next 90 minutes we were taken on a breathtaking voyage through the Pokémon universe. The music ebbed and flowed through battle themes, town levels such as Pallet Town and Ecruteak City, while the screen behind the orchestra showed an extremely well edited video of in game footage from each game, showing battles, scenery and most importantly – showing the evolution of the games.

The largest cheer – understandably – went around the room when the on screen video showed one of the most famous battle greetings from the Pokémon franchise. “Hi! I like shorts! They’re comfy and easy to wear!”

The orchestra itself contained a large range of people, male and female, young and old, and I was left wondering how many of these were actually Pokémon fans, and how many were just baffled by the room full of nerds they were performing for.

At the end of our Pokémon journey, Jerom came back to the stage to introduce the final songs. One was Kiseki – the ending song from Pokémon X and Y, which translates to Miracle. He spoke of how many within the Pokémon franchise regard these shows as a miracle. They are a way of strangers coming together and sharing memories that they have made over years since 1998. And then we were treated to some trainer-esque advice “Even if you’re progressing slowly, keep walking. If you do, you’ll reach your dream”.

Kiseki was played with the final cutscene from X and Y, and while I won’t spoil for anyone who hasn’t played it, I will say there were not many dry eyes in the room. The mood shifted however, when the instantly recognisable anime theme started playing. I have to say, listening to a few thousand people (mainly adults), singing Gotta Catch ‘em All in the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall was definitely one of the most surreal experiences of my life.

Pokémon Symphonic Evolutions really is the best name for this show. The performance itself showed the evolution of the game series, while the crowd who appeared to watch it showed not only the evolution of the game fans, but just how amazingly gaming and music can create feelings of togetherness among strangers. My two favourite things are video games and live music, and to see them come together in such a unique and beautiful way was an unforgettable experience. While Pokémon Symphonic Evolutions has left Australia for now, it is not one to be missed when it returns.

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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON AMNPLIFY.COM.AU

Australian Indie Games Market and PAX

PAX Australia’s Indie Showcase shows that Australia has a thriving indie games industry, despite having no large studios. While indie games have typically struggled at conventions, not being able to afford the floorspace of AAA studios, PAX had a section of the floor set up for indie companies to showcase their games. And it was hugely successful. I was at all three days of 2014 PAX, and I hardly got a look at the indie games there. Not through choice, but through the fact that it was so damn busy in there I couldn’t get in there to have a look.

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This is the map of the showroom floor at PAX 2014. That orangey/red bit in the bottom right is the Australian indie games. Just beating out Xbox and League of Legends, it had the biggest floorspace in the hall. Although Xbox had the advantage of not showcasing 50 or so games in a similar sized lot, the ANZ Indie Pavilion was a huge success. Even outside of the indie pavilion, littered around the floor you can see smaller Australian based gaming companies. With this in mind, here are a few games that I saw over my three days at PAX that really stuck out in my head.

Airscape: The Fall of Gravity: This is a game by a Wollongong local, who (at the time of PAX) was just finishing high school. This was one of the games I spent the longest playing, and I was absolutely mesmerised by it. The soundtrack is calming, the character is adorable, the gravity is unexplainable (just watch the trailer) and the gameplay is simple, but engaging.

Montas: Montas is one that I did not actually get to play myself (note the above where I said I couldn’t get in), but I did watch others playing it. It is a survival horror game that offers very little information, apart from this creepy sentence –The player is the audience, Montas is the play, and you are invited up on stage.” Montas was being showcased on the Oculus Rift (another reason it was so hard to get to). Below is a photo I took of an accurately dressed cosplayer playing Montas.

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Metal Dead: Of course I was going to waltz over to a booth that had METAL DEAD written in huge, blood dripping letters. Speaking to the developers, we traded favourite bands, and I was told that they created this point and click zombie adventure game due to a love of metal and a love of zombies. Seems logical. I wrote a preview for the upcoming sequel here.

Nippy Cats: “The goal is simple – just keep the catnip away from a horde of ravenous cats as long as you can. It is a noble mission… a proud one. You will fail. Kitty always wins.” The first sentence on the website just about sums it up. This is a frustratingly difficult game (one best played on an iPad rather than a phone), where you drag your finger around the screen to try and keep the cats from getting the catnip.

Wave Wave: This. Game. Was. Impossible. Impossible. Impossible. It sounds easy. Hold your finger on the screen to keep your line going straight. Lift it up to turn at a 90* angle and keep going straight. Continue like that. Except do it at a ridiculously fast pace, with a rotating screen and seizure inducing colours. Wave Wave would not be out of place at a chemically enhanced rave. Just watch this trailer. My record for this game? 4 seconds.

Cloud Popper: A nice, relaxing change of pace from Wave Wave. 60 seconds, pop the clouds, don’t pop the bombs. Nice. Lovely. Fun. Relaxing. A chat with the developer revealed that while creating educational childrens apps, he learned that with both adults and children alike, their favourite part was popping clouds.

Screencheat: Again, another I did not get to play, but watched other people play, and it seemed to be a whole lot of fun. Essentially, it is a first person shooter for between 2-8 players, but with a twist. All the characters are invisible, and you need to screencheat in order to find out where your opponents are.

Particulars: A particle physics based game, Particulars had a very morose and introspective feel. It is a puzzle game woven through the life stories and memories of a struggling physicist called Alison. Based in Sydney and being sponsered by ScreenNSW (which is interesting considering that McCrea’s article specifically states that Film Victoria is one of the only companies showing a culutral interest in video games). The playthrough available was short and only the first few levels, but it was a relaxing, moody sort of puzzler, without the general stress and fast pace of other puzzle games.

As I have said in previous posts, I am very much a console gamer, and I have been criticised in the past for sticking mainly within my comfort zone and playing AAA games. PAX changed this for me, and I hope that it will continue to do this. While writing this, I actually bought one of the games that I wrote about (note: It was Particulars). The countdown is on for PAX 2015, and I am excited to see what games I come out of it with.