GamesRadar - PS3 Features, 24 Dec 2014 14:00:00 -0800The 7 crappiest Christmas cash-in games <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Christmas is great. As a result, a lot of people like it. But, as is the case with everything a lot of people like, there are folk out there more than ready to capitalise on its popularity with Distinctly Less Than Great products. Despite modern games not lending themselves too well to seasonal theming (as I mentioned in <a href="" target="_blank">The 8 most Christmassy games that aren't actually set at Christmas</a>), history is littered with fairly stinking releases designed to cash in on the finest reindeer and snowman-based holiday of all. The '80s and '90s, with their quick development turnarounds and cheap publishing costs, were a particularly dark period. <p>So I decided, on this most joyous of Christmas Eves, to name the guilty. Read on, and I shall identify and bluntly critique the worst offenders. You'll get to have a fair old laugh at my pain along the way, and at the very least you'll gain a newfound appreciation of the games and consoles you'll be getting tomorrow, however many hours of updates and patches you might have to go through before the fun. </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><strong>How crap is it? </strong>So crap that it defies my natural instinct to throw reasoned, critical gamz jarnalism at it. It’s just unremittingly rancid. A side-scrolling shooter so basic that it barely even exists, Santa's Xmas Capers is less an exercise in frustration, more an exercise in WTF. <p>You control a reindeer-led sleigh (which bizarrely does not at all contain Santa; presumably any activity mirthsome enough to warrant the label of 'caper' involves not being in this game). Endless scrappy sprites 'representing' Christmas Things are hurled at you. The collision detection murders you instantly, and you're booted back to a title screen screeching an out-of-tune <i>We Wish You a Merry Christmas</i>. Forever. There is rumour that the game is currently being rebooted as Satan's Xmas Capers, as playing it is <i>exactly</i> like being in Hell. </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><strong>How crap is it? </strong>Pretty crap. It’s hard to truly hate any game so devoid of substance that you won’t play it for more than two minutes (in your entire life), but regardless, Sober Santa is crap. Santa is on a roof. You move him around to collect booze, which inexplicably spawns on that roof, rather than near the fireplace, at the bottom of the chimney he’s supposed to be going down. With every drink, he gets more boozey, and thus more difficult to control. Eventually he falls off the roof, whereupon you close the browser tab and ever think of Sober Santa again. <p>It’s taken me four days to write this entry, so forgettable is the game that every time I wrote half a sentence, the very experience of even having played it would drift from my mind as if some barely-remembered fever dream. Hardly perceptible, but still rather unpleasant with it, Sober Santa is the silent fart of Christmas games. But at least it doesn’t linger. </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><strong>How crap is it? </strong>Legendarily. As in ‘12 on Metacritic’, crap. Originally parped out as a freebie PC game, Elf Bowling, along with its sequel, was later put out at retail on the DS and Game Boy Advance. That was a big mistake. Not only because charging £20 for this perfect snowstorm of bad controls, bad visuals and bad sound is a recipe for an unwinnable battle against karma, but because putting Elf Bowling out as a ‘real’ game allowed real critics to have a go at it. And we eviscerated the thing, with 100% justified ferocity. <p>Oh, I’m sorry, did I say “along with its sequel”? That implies that Elf Bowling was a relatively localised disturbance. In actual fact there were six more after that, part seven even having the affront to call itself “Elf Bowling 7 1/7: The Last Insult”. Not only does that a) strongly imply that the devs know how shit these things are, and b) show a total lack any respect for either originality or the Naked Gun series (both big no-nos in my book of values), but <i>it wasn’t even the last game</i>. Elf Bowling: Hawaiian Vacation arrived afterwards. This stuff is the wildly spreading Black Death of Christmas games. </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><strong>How crap is it? </strong>Crappier than you might like to believe. Briefly a Huge Deal in Europe due to the popularity of the Commodore Amiga home computer in the early '90s (and more specifically said format's continued, desperate, agonisingly hopeless attempts to breed its own answer to Mario and Sonic), Robocod reviewed bizarrely well back in the day, largely down to it’s being a bit of a looker and packing a rather cool gimmick in the form of its aquatic hero's stretchy robotic midriff, which allowed him to reach otherwise unattainable heights by way of a hyper-extended spine. <p>Some loved it, but for those of us who actually had access to the plumber and the hedgehog, it elicited only the most awkwardly polite of weak plaudits in the face of our friends' enthusiasm. Ultimately, for all the jaunty presentation of the jolly Santa's Workshop setting, the platforming just wasn't that good. Vague, overly floaty, empty, and a bit abstract, it was typical of a lot of the substandard western platformer design of the day, and thus paled in comparison to the NES, SNES and Mega Drive's more tightly designed big-hitters. By way of its original tie-in to Penguin chocolate biscuits, it was also one of the earliest pioneers of in-game advertising, so we have that to thank it for too. THANKS, JAMES POND. </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><strong>How crap is it? </strong>Diabolically. Yes, it’s older than space, but I’m not going to give it any excuses based on age. This thing would be a stinker in 2727 or 9000 BC. You’re a snowman. You jog from left to right. Every so often you die for no discernable reason. Every time you do, you return to the far left and start all over again, creeping, existential terror growing with each and every repetition. That is all that happens. Forever. There is no reason. There is no explanation. There is only futility and death. Frosty the NOOOOOOOOOOOOOman, more like. <p> The poor fucker must be begging to be released from that accursed silk hat. How sweet it would be to melt back to the cold oblivion from whence he came. </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><strong>How crap is it? </strong>On the surface, not too crap. Yes, it’s a generic platformer, in that fairly dull, western-designed style I was talking about earlier, but it looks nice, and Santa is animated marvelously. And his intermittent transformations into the powered-up, Krampus-style Anti-Claus are a fun little twist, albeit a potentially worrying forerunner to <strong>The Werehog</strong>. So why’s it on this list? Simple. Bad writing cannot be tolerated. <p>Watch <a href="" target="_blank">this video</a>. Try to read the entirety of the game’s intro. It’s only three screens long, but it feels like it goes on longer than a traffic jam through the very bowels of Hades. The most bland, uneventful story. The most tortured, awkwardly hammered-together ‘poetry’. A seemingly randomised syllable structure for every stanza. Sentences that barely mean anything. A total disregard for grammar. And then the first level intro-card appears. “SANTAS HALLWAY”. Are here multiple Santas? No there are not. So <i>use a freaking apostrophe</i>. Kids are reading this, for God’s sake. What do I want for Christmas, Santa? Just basic, primary school-level linguistic understanding for all. </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><strong>How crap is it? </strong>Okay, maybe it’s a bit unfair to put this one on the list. Back in 1984, it probably wasn’t bad. As Santa, you fly through the skies, collecting presents dropped by floating angels, slinging them, Paperboy-style, down chimneys, and occasionally entering houses for a bit of rudimentary stealth-gifting amid nocturnal corridors patrolled by unpredictably marauding children. <p>But there are two factors to consider. Firstly, if you can find me a game on a 1984 home computer that still plays well today, then I’d find you a dirty liar, or at the very least someone with depressingly low standards. Secondly, this thing is <i>quietly horrifying</i>. For starters, the limited sprite-work means that Santa’s sleigh doesn’t so much have reindeer leading it, but rather a severed deer-head spiked totemically onto the front of it. Additionally, those kids make Santa explode. Yeah. Santa-guts all over the house come Christmas morn. Jolly. And as for those angels? No faces. Not even any heads. Just halos. Can we trust the gifts of such macabre, faceless beings? No, no we cannot. That is some Doctor Who-level shit going on there. </caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Okay, so I've sort of already done that gag, but it's Christmas Eve, and I want to put this one to bed quickly so that I can go off and start drinking White Russians. And after trawling through that lot, I think we all deserve one or three. Any suggestions of other crappy Christmas games I might have missed? If you've been so unfortunate enough to have played one, drop it in the comments so that we can share your pain. <p><strong><i>And if you're looking for better Christmas games to play over the holidays, I have a couple of suggestions to help you out. For a list of generally well-suited festive fun, have a look at <a href="" target="_blank">The 12 best games to play at Christmas</a>. And if you want all of the Yuletide cheer without any of the contrived cash-in, my aforementioned list of <a href="" target="_blank">The 8 most Christmassy games that aren't actually set at Christmas</a> has you covered. Have a splendid one, all. </strong></i></caption> </div> Wed, 24 Dec 2014 10:04:20 -0800 it or hate it? Why were 2014’s games so divisive?, 23 Dec 2014 08:00:00 -0800 future of Destiny according to Bungie: Dogfights in orbit?, 23 Dec 2014 09:00:00 -0800 does Bungie act on player feedback? Like this..., 22 Dec 2014 09:00:00 -0800 Christmas offer - get 34 top Eidos games for £20, 22 Dec 2014 04:05:47 -0800 7 video game characters would be awesome as Santa <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>When Eartha Kitt rudely requested Santa come and trim her ‘Christmas tree’ in <a href="" target="_blank">the multiple-entendre’d festive tune</a>, she clearly wasn’t picturing the strange assortment of stand-ins below to dive down her ‘chimney’. These weirdos range from a fat megalomaniac to a time-controlling cat to a mournful spider lady. But they share a common trait: they’d all be awesome Father Christmases.</p> <p>How? Why? Read on and we’ll explain all in our follow up to the feature that looks at <a href="" target="_blank">game characters who would make the worst Santas</a>! I say we. It’s actually just me slouched in an office chair writing this without a shred of warmth or humanity visible on my stoney face. Merry, er, something!!</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>“Oak Oak Oak, Mareep Christmas!” That’s what the legendary Pokémon prof and well-known master of puns would definitely say all the time if he decided to don a beard and become Father Christmas. It wouldn’t even get old. Imagine it, a new Pokémon for every girl and boy on Christmas morning. Transporting them wouldn’t be too hard for Oak - he’d need only grab a few hundred pokéballs and toss them out to bug catchers, campers, youngsters and lasses of Kanto. He could even ride a sleigh pulled by Deerlings and Stantlers. And for the naughty kids? Give ‘em a lump of Torkoal.</p> <p>Oak would have competition though. See, Santa actually exists in the Pokémon universe, first appearing in the anime episode Holiday Hi-Jynx where he employs an army of Jynx to prepare presents for Christmas.</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>A big part of the whole Santa Claus experience revolves around knees. More specifically, kids sitting on knees, explaining what they want for Crimbo. And annoyingly, old Kris Kringle only has two of them. Weak. Whatever your thoughts on the man are - and let’s be honest, he’s a divisive character - that’s pretty disappointing. This is why Chaos Witch Quelaag from Dark Souls would be an excellent stand-in because, with a whopping eight legs hosting 16 hairy knees, she would boost knee-sitting frequency in Lordran tenfold. That’s simple science.</p> <p>Yes, she’s not very child-friendly what with her vicious nature and toplessness, but give your kid an estus flask to chug on and take them away before she starts spewing fire and they’ll be alright. Probably. Her home of Blighttown contains many suitable gifts, including a plank shield, pyromancer robes, and the extra special Tin Banishment Catalyst, as well as bunch of friendly faces to help her deliver them, from giant mosquitoes to bloated leeches to that old festive favourite: the parasitic wall hugger.</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Tingle bells indeed. This notorious middle-aged fairy man comes festively dressed as standard, what with his tasteful all-green bodysuit, bulbous belly, and smart red thong. Simply dye his wispish facial hair white and he’ll be the spitting image of Old Saint Nick. Old Tingle's a cartographer, so he already knows where all Hyrulian children live (in a non-creepy way), and he travels by way of ultra-safe and convenient hot air balloon, which allows him to drop rupees into the wallets of fairy boys and girls everywhere. Kooloo-Limpah! That’s what he says.</p> <p>See, Tingle loves collectibles of all kinds - in Four Swords Adventures it’s Force Gems, and in The Minish Cap it’s Kinstones - so his sack would be positively bursting. His generosity takes on darker implications when you consider that in the DS game Freshly-Picked Tingle's Rosy Rupeeland it is explained Tingle needs Rupees to live. Does… does Tingle have a death wish?</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Einstein famously disproved the existence of Father Christmas when he selfishly declared that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. NOT EVEN SANTA. But hold on a merry minute: did Einstein ever mention a time-controlling cat called Blinx who’s able to alter the so-called immutable laws of the universe. No he most certainly did not!</p> <p>Star of the 2002 Xbox platformer, and another in 2004 that was even worse, this tuna-crazed temporal tabby is billed as the world’s first 4D action hero (CATction hero? No) thanks to his crazy (CATrazy? No) vacuum cleaner that can slow, stop, reverse and fast-forward the very fabric of time. Hey Einstein, imagine how useful that would be at delivering presents, you know-it-all. Let’s just hope Blinx doesn’t use his powers for evil, like freezing time and stripping everyone naked! Haha, oh Blinx. Never change.</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Ok, so Wario is less of a Santa and more of a grinch, shaking down fools for treasure, shrewdly managing a microgame-making company, and in Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coin even tricking poor Mario out of his castle and taking hard drugs in the throne room. But what if the greasy idiot used his powers of greed for good? Why, he’d be able to give children of the world a positively golden shower of unimaginable riches, possibly contributing to the formation of a new 1% and removing the secret elite lizardmen from their seats of power.</p> <p>Plus he’s got an awesome assortment of fast-ass vehicles, including two cars, a tractor, a plane, and a bike, on which to deliver presents. Obviously he couldn’t ride them all at once, but we’re sure he could recruit his WarioWare mates like Kat, Spitz and Mona and to help out. Also his good buddy Dr. Crygor (half robot) once fixed Wario’s GBA, so it’s extremely likely he’d know how to programme an advanced AI into these vehicles so they could drive themselves. Yeah...</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>I'm pretty sure celebrating Christmas is banned in the dystopian, whitewashed city of Mirror’s Edge, but then ‘The Man’ tells you not to run fast or scare pigeons or kill people in cold blood with a series of deadly firearms and Faith does it anyway. Because she’s rebelling against the system, yeah? Barring a poor bit of signposting or amateur-grade level design or something, nothing would stop our nimble Nike ninja from delivering you presents speedily, provided they’re not a tiny bit heavy. You’d need to ask for an iTunes gift card or some stamps - something she could fit in a bumbag.</p> <p>Nope, not low-hanging pipe, steam vent, nor small, jumpable gap would stand in Faith’s way. And let’s not forget her loyal band of runners, just as fast but a touch more forgettable, who’ll no doubt help her with her haul. Careful though, because one or more of them are bound to betray her at some point. That just makes for a better narrative.</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Santa’s whole mythology is based on him making snap judgements about people. “Oooh, you’ve been naughty, you’ve been nice.” Dude, you don’t even know me. Who made you the world's moral adjudicator? People don’t get tattoos with ‘only God can judge me (and also Santa)’. It just seems a bit of a dick move to be dealing in absolutes, especially around Christmas. Luckily, that’s Mike Hagger’s whole spiel. And he does it with a lot more class.</p> <p>From the Final Fight series, this former professional wrestler turned mayor rules over Metro City with an iron fist and a waxed chest and a class moustache. If you’re naughty, like the Mad Gear gang who kidnap Haggar’s daughter and send house prices in the area plummeting, Haggar won’t just shove a lump of coal in your face, but a signature reverse elbow too. And if you’ve been nice? Expect a platter of delicious pavement turkey and possibly a confiscated blade or two. Merry Christmas!</p></caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Well, there are my picks for the video game characters who would actually make great Santas. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to decorate my home with festive, parasitic wall-huggers, such is the tradition in my family. If you have comments, and your fingers aren't too full of gifts, leave comments below. On anything, really, I don't mind.</p> <p><strong><i>Want more Crimbo features? Here's one about <a href="" target="_blank">Murdering Santa Claus</a>, and here's a different one about <a href="" target="_blank">GTA Online's Festive Gubbins</a>. Enjoy!</i></strong></p></caption> </div> Mon, 22 Dec 2014 05:00:00 -0800 expansions through the ages <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Sleigh bells. Gift wrap. Homicidal gingerbread men and heavily armed snowfolk. Mistletoe. These are the things that the holiday season's made of, at least if you go by the many Christmas expansions video games have to offer. In a bid to wring every precious cent out of the season, developers have long made a point of playing Santa with festive mission packs and candy cane-shaped firearms sold to their holly jolly fanbases. <p>The memories of these merry offerings may fade with the turning of the seasons, but as that time of year comes 'round again and we troll the ancient Yuletide servers, we wish to honor those jolly Christmas expansions of yore. Don you now your DLC apparel, prepare yourself for some ho-ho-horrible Christmas punnery, and lets dig into those precious holiday memories.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>What do you get?</b> A new, Christmas-themed game in the Monty Mole series. Perhaps you kids, with your Ratchet & Daxter and your Grand Torino videogame entertainments, don’t appreciate that a new Monty Mole game was a pretty big deal once. Your job is to wrangle the source code for a new Monty Mole game, oversee mastering of said game, and get it to distributors in time for Christmas, <i>even as you play that very game</i>. Remember the season of Seinfeld devoted to the making of a fictional Jerry Seinfeld sitcom? That's nothing compared to the postmodern genius of Moley Christmas. <p><b>Are you filled with holiday cheer?</b> By replacing the drudgery of actual games programming and distribution with scenes of hectic Santa-suited platforming and dodging holiday traffic, Moley Christmas pretty much puts a gun to your head and <i>orders</i> you to make with the festive, bitch.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>What do you get?</b> Some short demo levels of then-huge Lemmings, in which the suicidal little creatures romp in the snow and wearing Santa costumes. This concept proved to be so popular that two full games were launched around it. Still, it's a bit of an odd bird. Why do the “basher” lemmings have just as much trouble digging through fresh powder snow as they would solid rock? What’s the point of keeping the moronic critters alive through all manner of peril, only to bake them into a Christmas pudding? But meh, they're wearing Santa suits, so we’ll give it a pass. <p><b>Are you filled with holiday cheer?</b> Christmas Lemmings threatens to succumb to a very merry malaise: it’s so bursting with holiday cheer it could almost make you sick. The game averts this outcome though by providing you with hundreds of Santa-looking merry-makers, all of whom can be exploded at your merest whim.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>What do you get?</b> Two levels of cult Saturn-era Sega action-adventure NiGHTS into Dreams, set during Christmas and featuring date-sensitive holiday content. The limited edition of NiGHTS wouldn’t turn into Winter Nights until November, but wait another month after that, and the game would bust out the seasonal festivities. Of course, you could just tell your Saturn every day was Christmas, and NiGHTS would be none the wiser. <p><b>Are you filled with holiday cheer?</b> With all those presents, Christmas trees, sleighbells and techno-rearranged Christmas carols on offer, Christmas NiGHTS is a bit like eggnog. It’s great during the appropriate season, but yearly access would probably make you ill.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>What do you get?</b> Jazz Jackrabbit is a hare who collects carrots and fights turtles (convoluted Aesop shout-outs FTW). In his three(!) holiday games, he does those things in the snow, set to a sleigh-bell-accented backing track. Audiences were disgusted by the games’ slapdash approach to seasonal biology (neither jackrabbits nor turtles are greatly active in the winter months), which is the only reason Jazz Jackrabbit is never today mentioned in the same breath as Mario or Sonic. <p><b>Are you filled with holiday cheer?</b> Holiday Hare’s leading <a href="" target="blank">modern-day purveyor</a> calls the game “one of the most entertaining side scrolling platform games of all time.” <a href="" target="blank">Another source</a> speculates the Jackrabbit holiday games “may become part of the next generation’s holiday traditions.” Evidently, adding a “snow on the rooftops” effect to the game’s menu fonts went a long way.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>What do you get?</b> A couple of Christmas trees that sit in Station Square and display messages wishing best of the holidays, joining you in waiting with bated breath for then-impending Y2K. You're hardly whisked away to a winter wonderland, though. By and large, the whole affair stays the same, but the sunny downtown Square has a couple ropey-looking trees in it. Being as this isn't even DLC so much as a limited-time key for pre-existing content, you’d think there could be some dodgy late-‘90s snow effects or something. <p><b>Are you filled with holiday cheer?</b> You are if you go close to the trees and listen closely: it would play you an acapella version of the music from Christmas NiGHTS.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>What do you get?</b> In Star Wars Galaxies, Rebels and their sympathizers join in celebrating the Star Wars universe’s greatest holiday festival. That would of course be Wookiee Life Day, invented for the single most reviled piece of Star Wars media ever produced: the Star Wars Holiday Special. As Wookiee Life Day isn’t actually a celebration of Christmas per se, the game can do whatever it likes with seasonal tradition. What it likes is to expand the mythology of the Holiday Special so that Wookiee Life Day is at once mortifyingly sweet and kind of heartwarming. You know, like Christmas itself. <p><b>Are you filled with holiday cheer?</b> How could you fail to be? Just as the Holiday Special enriched the lives of everyone except George Lucas (who probably sleeps OK at night regardless), Star Wars Galaxies’ Life Day brings cheer into the homes of all who participate. Except those playing as the Empire: their official mandate is to grief the whole celebration.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>What do you get?</b> An installment of Sam and Max in which every Christmas trope is rehashed, subverted and twisted into a plot that also involves demonic possession, corporate meddling and the imminent Apocalypse. It's pretty seamlessly done, so it makes us wonder how game designers until 2007 to capitalize on the fact that Santa is an anagram of Satan. Puns and video games – who knew those tastes could go together? <p><b>Are you filled with holiday cheer?</b> Sam and Max could take Tax Day and turn it into an occasion for festive merriment. By the time you’ve digested the <a href="" target="blank">accompanying machinima</a>, you'll be forgiven for just not having any idea what to do with yourself.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>What do you get?</b> Santa costumes. You could dress your characters up and use them to traumatize viewers too young to have their notions of Kris Kringle marred by the film <i>Silent Night, Deadly Night</i>. For a series that's endured the bolting-on of everything from bug-catching nets to diminutive Jedi warriors, the ability to make your characters dress like a pissed-off mall Santa is par for the course. As long plenty of ludicrous ass-kicking remains, the spirit will endure. <p><b>Are you filled with holiday cheer?</b> Like fun you are. A couple measly red suits cost two bucks! Charging for this kind of frippery is basically forcing hardscrabble penny-pinchers to choose between seeing new outfits or eating Christmas dinner.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>What did you get?</b> The same juicy, slashy goodness you've come to expect from Fruit Ninja, but now there's a snow globe! To be precise, the snow globe is you, and as you flail your arms in a desperate attempt to reach that escaping coconut, your silhouette is replaced with a lovely, snowy landscape. Plus, your ninja-bladed hands have become candy cane blades, the most fearsome of all Christmas weapons. Everything else is pretty much the same, except that the master of fruit is wearing a Santa hat and instead of getting the multi-slice pomegranate, you get a fruitcake. I've always wanted to destroy one of those. <p><b>Were you filled with holiday cheer?</b> Sometimes it's the little things that make the season special. Yeah, you're still slice and dicing tropical fruits, but the wintery hints are just so whimsical you'd have to be a Scrooge not to crack a smile.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>What do you get?</b> A lot of weirdness, which is good, because it wouldn't be Saints Row otherwise. While the Saints are decorating their base of operations with all sorts of holiday livery, a cybernetic Shaundi from the future appears and claims that the boss must defeat a corrupted Santa Claus with nothing but some pop-guns and the joy of the season. The boss isn't huge on that idea at first, but after blowing away Santa's gingerbread army, s/he inevitably gets into the spirit. You might say that his/her heart grew three sizes that day. <p><b>Are you filled with holiday cheer?</b> This much holiday merriment in one place would be as cloying as a mug of melted candy canes, <i>if</i> it was at all serious. As it is, the Saints make their cybernetic, trigger-happy holiday hijinks just funny enough that ending on a cutesy Grinch reference is entirely tolerable.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>What do you get?</b> Two missions in an inexplicable Christmas town full of murderous, gun-totting snowmen. In How Marcus Saved Mercenary Day, arms dealer Marcus calls on the vault hunters to travel through a wardrobe to the annoyingly whimsical land of Gingerton and check on a lost gun shipment. That explanation creates <i>way</i> more questions than it answers, but there's no time to think about that as you're thrown into an adorable winterland where everything is out for your blood. There you meet the unnervingly shirtless Smaller-than-average Timothy and defeat a vicious snow-overlord named Tinder Snowflake. <p><b>Are you filled with holiday cheer?</b> If you spend the entire game trying to figure out what a holiday about contract killers could possibly have to do with awkward Dickensian knock-offs, probably not. But if you think a Psycho singing Carol of the Bells is hilarious, you'll probably love this whole thing <i>and</i> get some sick loot out of the deal. And in the end, isn't that what Mercenary Day is REALLY about? No seriously, that's a real question.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>What do you get?</b> A content pack as fat as jolly ol' Saint Nick. The Minecraft Festive Mash-Up Pack contains 36 new avatar skins, as well as a feature that transforms your Minecraft world into the sort of joyful snowscape that Jingle Bells was written about. There's also a new, jollified version of the Minecraft soundtrack, giving the pack that extra holiday tinsel it needs to round it all out. This festive mash-up is currently exclusive to Xbox consoles, though Microsoft has claimed it will appear on other systems in the near future. Still, looks like the corporate overlord might be playing favorites this Christmas. Just a guess. <p><b>Are you filled with holiday cheer?</b> With this many semi-square Christmas trees, white blocks replacing brown blocks, and <a href="" target="blank">Santas giving off an Exorcist vibe</a>, how can you <i>not</i> get into the holiday spirit?</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>What do you get?</b> It's the most wonderful time of the year, and what better way to show it than with completely impractical festive costumes? Whether it's a sexy snowman, a sexy angel, or a sexy badly-wrapped present (seriously, someone get these girls some gift paper before they die of hypothermia), this Christmas costume set has you covered. Heck, even Hayate and Ein join the party as sexy reindeer, so there's something here for everyone. Except maybe people who don't want to sit in their living rooms shivering in empathy. Can't help you there. <p><b>Are you filled with holiday cheer?</b> Just like with Soulcalibur, the idea of laying down hard-earned holiday money for a bunch of costumes is painful, especially when the pack costs a whopping $18. Holy mother of mistletoe! And yes, it only contains the costumes (a seasonally appropriate twelve of them), so you must <i>really</i> want to see the Dead or Alive cast in barely-there holiday attire to make this one worth it.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>'Tis the days before Christmas, and all through the 'net, devs are offering expansions you may want to get. But take heart: memorable as they may be, there's only a few you'll want under your tree. Which of these expansions do you think is the best? Is there something much better you'd like to suggest? Say so in the comments, and have no fear - if you hate all of these, there's always next year! <p><b><i>Is it beginning to feel a lot like Christmas? Keep that feeling going with <a href="" target="blank">the 12 best games to play at Christmas</a> and <a href="" target="blank">the GTA Online Christmas update that brings festive surprises</a>.</b></i></caption> </div> Wed, 24 Dec 2014 14:00:00 -0800 healing items that would definitely kill you in real life <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>If you're a guest in someone else's home, don't go through all their drawers looking for money. If you see a turtle, don't stomp on it. If you need to escape from a bunch of armed dudes, don't leave a nudie mag on the ground and expect them to hunker down and leer at it while you make your escape. Video games teach us all kinds of lessons that would be unwise to carry over to real life - but ‘You'll feel better if you just use X healing item’ might be the most deadly of all. <p>Seriously, it's a wonder that video game characters are still standing after all the unrefrigerated poultry they consume, <a href="" target="_blank">pills they pop</a>, and anomalous drugs they inject into their veins. Can you imagine what would happen if <i>you</i>, a mortal creature of flesh and bone, tried to nourish yourself with these pick-ups? Well, you don't have to - I already did. Click on for some cautionary tales of healing items that would totally, <i>totally</i> kill you in real life.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>How it works in the game:</b> Max limps into a bathroom, barely able to stay on his feet after taking a gut full of bullets from a two-bit mobster with an Uzi. He opens a medicine cabinet, grabs a few bottles full of pills, pops one open, and downs its contents in a single gulp. Aside from that scratchy throat feeling you get from taking pills dry, Max's pain is killed. <p><b>How it would work for you</b>: You're bleeding from a gunshot wound. Rather than calling 911/999 and awaiting assistance from trained paramedics, you decide to guzzle a bottle of oxycodone you found on top of the refrigerator. The pain fades after a half-hour or so, even though you're still bleeding like a stuck pig - you feel a little cold, but otherwise okay. Maybe you'll take a little nap on the floor until the healing effect kicks in… this was… a great… idea...</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>How it works in the game:</b> The horde of ghouls is still pounding at the door, but Leon is safe for the moment. He reaches into his pocket and produces a little spray can with a green plus sign on its label. He pulls his hand away from the grievously bleeding wound on his neck, grits his teeth, and presses down on the can's nozzle until the last of its refreshing mist sputters out. He's no doctor, but he would assess his condition as Fine after that. <p><b>How it would work for you:</b> Jesus Christ, what was wrong with that hiker? He almost looked like he was sleepwalking, but he was so pale… Anyway, you'd better do something about that bite. Good thing you keep a can of Umbrella-brand first-aid spray in your car. Just give that a good spritz and you'll feel better in no time. There you are… the pain's gone, but God, is it getting hot in here? Now you've got the chills. Better head home.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>How it works in the game:</b> Donatello's not looking so tubular. He could wreck a platoon of purple Foot Clan ninjas in his sleep, but the orange ones are just the <i>absolute worst</i>. Not to mention those gnarly raptors that keep trampling around and ruining his day. Luckily, Leonardo saved him a slice of 'za from this box he found by the cliffside in 250,000,000 B.C. A few quick chomps and the turtles are back in fighting shape. <i>Cowabunga!</i> <p><b>How it would work for you:</b> You're lost and confused, and your pants are still damp from soiling yourself at the sight of a <i>pterodactyl carrying a robot ninja</i>. Suddenly, a familiar scent wafts into your nostrils - pizza! There it is, an unguarded box of the sacred pie! You're so hungry you don't even care that it's topped with anchovies - you just devour the whole thing. Then you wink out of existence, because that pizza <i>would</i> have fed the rodent-like creature that was the ancestor of all mammals. Whoops.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>How it works in the game:</b> Vulcan Raven stalks through the warehouse, scanning left and right for his quarry. There isn't much further for Solid Snake to crawl. Ah! There he is, panting and bleeding! This last volley will end his unnatural existence! But as the high-caliber bullets slam into Snake's body, the surprisingly calm soldier bites down on something and his wounds begin to close. Damn him! He had a ration in his mouth! <p><b>How it would work for you:</b> You've accepted that these strange military rations are laced with some kind of healing agent, and that eating them instantly mends your wounds. But after months of miraculous recoveries, your supply is running low and you figure you'd better conserve them. Rather than wasting a morsel of their healing power, you'll wait until you're at the moment of death and then take a replenishing bite… but it turns out you may have overestimated your ability to carefully unwrap and consume foodstuffs while being shot in the face.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>How it works in the game:</b> Sabin nearly fell to that accursed toothy squid! Come to think of it, he may have actually died, depending on the philosophical ramifications of using a Phoenix Down on a fallen combatant… For now, there's a damn potion to drink. The taste is almost unbearable - but if he can just chug down the contents of the little blue bottle he'll be back to pumping iron and thrashing villains faster than you can say 'Biggs and Wedge'. <p><b>How it would work for you:</b> That traveling salesman promised his 'Vitality Potion' would get rid of your cough if you drank it every night just before bed. And it did! By causing multiple organ failure. When your corpse is exhumed a hundred years later, researchers will find your bones are still infused with enough mercury and lead to kill twenty men. No cough, though.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>How it works in the game:</b> Blaze Fielding is a woman of action, and she doesn't have time to get take-out with all these goons around. They need a good face pounding. Fortunately for Blaze and her fellow street-fighting vigilantes, helpful citizens have taken to hiding their spare foodstuffs in garbage cans and newspaper racks all across the city. She smashes a few open, discarding an apple here or there (must have been from some smartass dentist) until she finds a roast chicken and chows down. Good to go! <p><b>How it would work for you:</b> You vaguely recall some old wives' tale about discarding cooked poultry if it's left out for more than two hours. Something about salmonella? Bah. That must've been why some joker dropped this beautifully roasted bird in the garbage, plate and all. It's cold and you'll need to wipe off a few cigarette butts, but it's cheaper than Chik-Fil-A! Urp… maybe there's some Pepto Bismol in that trash can, too...</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>How it works in the game:</b> Sometimes Mario isn't so good-a at the depth-a perception. In this case, he overestimated how much speed he needed for that last jump and ended up soaring clear over the platform, crashing into the floor a hundred meters below. But he's not a-worried, even as he pants-a with exhaustion, because he landed right next to a nice big lake. He dives, holds his breath for a few seconds, and springs back out like-a new man. Mamma mia, that's a good-a baptism metaphor! <p><b>How it would work for you:</b> You were on the team back in high school, so swimming with two broken legs and a collapsed lung shouldn't be a problem, right? Just a quick dip and you'll feel right as rain. Can't stand, so you'll have to roll your way over… and in you go! OK! Your legs still really hurt! But swimming without using your legs is hard! So is breathing underwater! This was maybe not such a great idea!</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>How it works in the game:</b> Well, that fight could've gone better. As per usual, Jack was way too conservative with his plasmids (even though he was full of EVE) and he took a few stray bullets. Luckily for him, that dumb Splicer led him straight to a well-stocked liquor cabinet right before she got torn to bits by a turret. Four bottles of Rapture's finest fortified wine later, and Jack's feeling much better. A little wobbly, with a little less EVE, but much better. <p><b>How it would work for you:</b> Ahh, that really hurts. How could you cut yourself this badly just chopping carrots? It's like cooking 101 and <i>carrots are so not worth dying for!</i> No bandages in the house, of course, but you do have a couple boxes of wine you were planning to bring to the dinner party. Maybe if you polish one off you'll feel better. No, just drunk, still hurts. Try another. Ok, stop puking, that's not going to help. Try another. Don't pass out, you lazy…</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>How it works in the game:</b> This might be it for the Lone Wanderer. Trapped in a vault deep underground with a busted leg and surrounded by super mutants, she's running out of options. Almost as much for old time's sake as out of any real hope for salvation, she pats down a corpse… and feels a familiar syringe in its pocket! In one fluid motion she pulls the stimpak forth and jabs it into her leg, instantly knitting the wound and mending the fracture. Alright - time to see about getting back to the surface. <p><b>How it would work for you:</b> You were kinda worried for a few weeks after you injected yourself with that filthy syringe you found lying in a pile of rubbish, but it really did wonders for your aching back. Your fears are just beginning to subside when you get a call from your doctor's office. Her tone is grave as she asks you if you're sitting down. You say yes, and she tells you that you are infected with every bloodborne pathogen known to man and have at most a month to live. Your back still feels great.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>That's it for my accounting of gaming's deadliest health items, but video games are jam packed with inadvisable diets and wellness plans. So sit down with a nice cut of garbage chicken and think of your favorites, then come back and share them in the comments below! <p><b><i>For some characters, <a href="" target="_blank">bizarrely miraculous healing items</a> will never be enough. On the other hand, health-ups aren't not the only <a href="" target="_blank">pick-up that video games take too far</a>.</i></b></caption> </div> Wed, 24 Dec 2014 11:00:00 -0800 games where you beat the everloving cheer out of Santa Claus <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Santa Claus. Kris Kringle. St. Nick. Just the name brings to mind a benevolent and loving father figure who cranks the joy dial up to 11. He's the human embodiment of the generosity, joy, and Olympic-level eating that Christmas is all about. His very presence reminds us to be good and kind to our fellow man (with a little bribery on the side, but still), bringing out the best in everyone who celebrates Christmas during this most wonderful time of the year. <p>So naturally, we mortals have a morbid fascination with dragging Santa's sterling reputation through the slushy Christmas mud. You want to see the bad Santa, the creepy mall Santa, the Santa who's gone mad from his gift-giving burden and is trying to destroy the world. Nowhere is that more apparent than video games, where you are often charged with <i>fighting</i> the evil Father Christmas, or at least the corruption that has overtaken his holly-jolly soul. In these twelve games Santa Claus comes to town, and he's got a sleigh full of whoopass with your name on it. Read on, and remember, it's better to give than to receive!</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>How and why are you fighting Santa?</b> In the Saints Row 4 DLC How the Saints Save Christmas, after revealing that s/he doesn't care all that much about the holidays, the protagonist is warned by a fashionable Terminator reference that s/he has less than 24 hours to learn the reason for the season before the universe is conquered by a demon warlord Santa. You know, that old Christmas chestnut. Dubbed Santa Clawz following years of mind-bending torment by antagonist Zinyak, this killer Kringle's main goal is to ruin Christmas by putting everyone on the Naughty List and stuffing a big ol' lump of murder in their stocking. <p>Thankfully, the protagonist decides to get into the holiday spirit and deliver presents to the people of Steelport in Santa's stead, weakening evil's grip on St. Nick's soul. He makes a last ditch effort to go full demon and send the universe to holly jolly hell, but it's nothing a little impalement on a giant Christmas tree star topper can't fix. <p><b>Is he the real Santa?</b> It sadly looks like it, but don't worry, he gets better!</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>How and why are you fighting Santa?</b> You may be shouting at your screen this very moment, telling me that the Krampus is a separate Christmas creature and he's <i>totally</i> different from Santa Claus, <i>duh</i>! To that I say 1) stop talking to your monitor, I can't hear you, and 2) this guy's the Krampus in name only. While the Krampus of Alpine folklore is a demonic man-goat with an impossibly long tongue and a basket full of naughty children, the Krampus from CarnEvil is just an mean looking Santa with reindeer horns, pine claws, and inexplicably thorny ice skates. Because evil is pointy? <p>In any case, this freakish faux St. Nick is another abomination that rules part of the CarnEvil park, and he wants nothing more than to "stuff your stocking" (no really) with his Santa cla - talons. The clear answer to this problem is to fill his jelly belly full of lead until he keels over in a bizarrely comedic fashion. I guess after you go insane from seeing a childhood icon turned into a demon, <i>everything's</i> funny! <p><b>Is he the real Santa?</b> He's more like an anti-Santa, so don't feel bad about putting him down. Plus, you bag a ten-pointer!</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>How and why are you fighting Santa?</b> In Gex 3, the titular Gecko travels through the multiverse inside a TV to save his coquettish and worryingly human love interest from an evil robot dragon (it was the '90s). The first stop on the telly train is a land composed entirely of cheesy Christmas tropes, where Gex inevitably runs into Santa. But apparently our reptilian hero is on the Naughty List (surprising no one), and this Santa's vision of gift giving involves a lot of violent box flinging. <p>On the bright side, Santa may have gift delivery down pat, but he apparently can't handle a Return to Sender. All Gex has to do is pull a rude relative and pass back Santa's present projectiles, and Father Christmas goes down like a sack of coal. Don't quit your day job, Mister Claus. <p><b>Is he the real Santa?</b> Nope, since this Santa exists in a mix of bad Christmas movies and is basically a festive Frankenstein. That'd make anybody go a little sideways.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>How and why are you fighting Santa?</b> You probably never wanted to think about Santa Claus wearing a thong, but I didn't either, so you and I are going to share this brain-scarring pain. In Deathspank: Thongs of Virtue, the tragically named hero Deathspank must collect the six Thongs of Virtue and destroy them in the Fires of Bacon. How ham-fisted. Santa Claus is corrupted by the Thong of Generosity, and is apparently so huge he can't get up off his back, giving you a nice view of his underthings 100% of the time. Can I get some brain bleach for Christmas? <p>Though Deathspank is the sole occupant of the Nice List, that doesn't stop the jolly ol' jerkass from trapping him in an exitless dungeon (with one too many exits) or sending a coal golem to kill him. So you don't feel so bad when Deathspank finishes off the North Pole's merry minions and slices Santa like a holiday ham. <p><b>Is he the real Santa?</b> I hope not, since if Santa's going to go down, I hope it isn't in the process of removing his thong.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>How and why are you fighting Santa?</b> It's generally not advisable to slice mall Santas open with a giant sword, as creepy and demonic as they may be. But when that mall Santa's been infected with a mutant zombie virus? Okay, maybe the sword's the way to go. In the enthusiastically punctuated Hunter: The Reckoning: Redeemer, Hunter Kylie is forced to fight an undead scourge that's taking over the city and putting a damper on the holiday cheer. She learns that the virus has left a professional Kris Kringle one partridge short of a pear tree, and only she can save the innocent civilians he's kidnapped. His ho-ho-hostages? ...No? <p>While that all sounds relatively reasonable (yeah yeah zombie Santa, you're not wowing me here), things take a turn for the weird when a perfectly normal human being turns into a demon with mouths in his mustache and invites you to sit on his lap. It takes some serious swordplay to crack this nut, but Kylie manages to pull it off, and then no one ever spoke of this moment again. Um, until now. <p><b>Is he the real Santa?</b> Thankfully no. This is just a mall Santa with a nasty case of the undead flu.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>How and why are you fighting Santa?</b> It's a pre-Christmas apocalypse and this time the Mayans are not involved. Instead, the awesome, fearful power of a long out-of-use stone calendar is replaced by the slightly more effective threat of a DNA warping zombification virus. It's early December. The streets are awash with blood. Chaos and violence erupts from every doorway and back alley. A hackneyed joke about Christmas shopping rears its ugly head, but fear not. We're going to be far too classy to run with it. <p>Being one of a tiny percentage resistant to the tasty delights of cranial offal cuisine, it's your task to fight your way through the stinking mob in order to find someone who can turn your vein juice into a bona fide cure. Given the time of year, the flesh-hungry masses comprise an influx of bearded, previously jolly men in red coats. But mid-zombie apocalypse, there's no time to be sentimental. He needs detonating into pate just like the rest of them. <p><b>Is he the real Santa?</b> We hope not. A world without Santa is not a world worth saving.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>How and why are you fighting Santa?</b> Back to the Multiverse uses parallel universes to create a wildly eclectic, thrillingly unpredictable narrative/really cheap method of mixing up the level design without requiring any real attempt at coherence. <p>In one of those universes, Stewie and Brian discover that due to the rise of online shopping (satire!) Santa has become redundant and has turned his factory into a freelance manufacturing plant for any and all bidders. He's currently building weapons for main antagonist and Stewie's evil(ler) twin Bertram, so the pair ignore that none of this makes the slightest bit of logical sense when you really think about it and head off to take the big man down. Which they do via a rather dull boss fight. <p><b>Is he the real Santa?</b> Yes, but only in the universe that this particular level takes place in, so ours remains completely safe. Hurrah!</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>How and why are you fighting Santa?</b> Because Clayfighter has always been such a 'hilarious', 'quirky' and no doubt quantifiably 'wacky' series, and because its mascot character is a snowman, it was crushingly inevitable that Santa would eventually appear. And in the third game he did. In an explosion of pioneering obviousness he was conceived and realized as a walking fat joke, fighting in a pseudo-sumo fashion and with his belly out because "LOL LOOK SANTA IS FAT!" Oh, and his finishing move is to butt-slam himself on top of his stunned enemy, wedge them up his crack, and fart out their bones. Keep it classy, Clayfighter. <p>The storyline reason for fighting him? Sumo Santa is sort of an evil version of Santa, and a rival of Bad Mr. Frosty. He's been exiled to the tropical Klaymodo Island since Frosty took control of the North Pole and he now wants it back. So, you know, fighting. <p><b>Is he the real Santa?</b> Probably not. Though it' s all a bit vague. Let's say no, because the real Santa couldn't possibly be that crap.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>How and why are you fighting Santa?</b> Discovering that the deadly Maimtron 9000 that attacked their street was sent by Santa, Sam & Max head to the North Pole and immediately have a defensive Santa stick a gun in their faces. Which, let's face it, is a bit of an upgrade from coal in the stocking. Eventually discovering that one of the elves is possessed by a demon, they perform an exorcism and seal said eldritch nightmare in a jelly. Day saved? <p>No. Santa then eats the jelly and turns the gun on them once more, this time less as a defensive measure, more as a deliberately murdery gesture. The two eventually knock him out using a Rube Goldberg contraption comprising a cannon, a present and a toy plane. Eventually the source of the demon is revealed as an administration error. He was meant to be sent to Satan, not Santa, so Sam & Max box up the bearded fella and post him to Hell. <p><b>Is he the real Santa?</b> Unfortunately it seems so, despite looking a lot like Colonel Sanders.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>How and why are you fighting Santa?</b> It's basically self-defense. He just turns up halfway through the obligatory ice level and starts attacking you. You see this Santa doesn't have toys in his bag. He has only death, by way of a seemingly infinite supply of bombs. Which makes it rather a shame that we used up the "worse than a lump of coal" joke in the last entry. Damn. <p>Anyway, given that it's the caring, sharing season of peace, goodwill and forgiveness there's only one way to deal with the little bugger: through the tried and tested medium of a barrel to the face. Given how cold it is, that's really going to sting. Incidentally, the boss of this level is a naked white-bearded muscle mutant with literal claws. We think we see what they did there. <p><b>Is he the real Santa?</b> Possibly. Don't let the color of his suit fool you. Traditionally Santa doesn't have to wear red. Though we can only justify his behavior by theorizing that someone swapped the sherry and biscuits for PCP this year.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>How and why are you fighting Santa?</b> Very little reason other than that it's Christmas. Literally. Every year, brutal co-op arena shooter Killing Floor has a special Twisted Christmas event, bringing a themed festive map and the gift of new high powered weaponry for all. During the event, the game's enemies are reskinned as evil Santas and evil cyborg Santas, as well as mutant elves, drill-handed nutcrackers, murderous carolers and the most horrific snowman ever to ruin the Christmas dreams of an innocent child. <p>In 2010, the event took place in a sinister grotto. In 2011 the festive fragging occurred in an ice cave. In 2012? Space. Obviously. Seriously, what did you expect? Weirdo. <p><b>Is he the real Santa?</b> We like to assume not, given that 1) there's more than one of him and 2) the thought of this guy having nocturnally snuck into our bedrooms year after year makes us want to hose our childhoods down with bleach.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p><b>How and why are you fighting Santa?</b> Because you don't realize he's Santa until you've defeated him. You see the boss of Secret of Mana's Ice Palace is the Frost Gigas, the coldest and most blue of the world's three elemental giants. <p>Once he goes down though? Santa. He turns into Santa. Or rather he turns back into Santa. You see he's not really one of the Giga bros. What actually happened was that after becoming disheartened by children starting to lose faith in the true meaning of Christmas, Santa hatched a plan to grow an epic Christmas tree using one of the world's mythical Mana seeds. The idea backfired and the seed turned him into the Frost Gigas. But now he's saved! Because you, er... tried to kill him. <p><b>Is he the real Santa?</b> Yes! His grand, selfless plan for the benefit of the world's children proves this, as does the appearance of Rudolph after the fight. So not only have you liberated the Ice Country and taken another step towards saving the world, you've also saved Christmas as well, probably for all worlds in the multiverse. Consider yourself coal-exempt for the rest of your life.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Congratulations, you saved Christmas from the dark machinations of evil Papa Noel! And/or ruined Christmas by brutally murdering its wayward patriarch. Either way, happy holidays! Which of these is your favorite Santa beatdown, you monster? Or is there another Santa-wrecking game that you prefer more, because you are a sick, sick soul? Tell us in the comments below, and remember, he sees you when you're sleeping… <p><b><i>Did those tales of Christmas carnage get you in the holiday spirit? Then you'll love the <a href="" target=blank>12 best games to play at Christmas</a> and <a href="" target="blank">Game characters who should never, ever play Santa Claus</a>.</b></i></caption> </div> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 14:00:00 -0800 7... Characters you couldn&#39;t date for some dumb reason <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Ah, love in video games. Remember when it was so cool and giggle-provoking that Final Fantasy 7 let you take whichever lady party member (or Barrett) you favored most on a date to the Golden Saucer? Back then, the idea of building a romance in a video game was mostly limited to creepy adult adventures/untranslated dating sims. Not so any more. <p>Thanks in large part to BioWare's brave experiments in high-stakes fantasy smooching, the modern game consumer expects a host of dating options in anything that can muster up a dialogue tree. This critical eye for digital matchmaking reveals a disturbing trend: <i>there are so many good player companions that, for whatever reason, you just can't date</i>. In the following slides you'll find some of the most egregious examples of sadly un-romanceable characters, from the fan favorites to the obscure. Fortunately for you, taking this relationship to the next level only requires the push of a button (instead of, like, three buttons spread out over the course of a campaign).</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Just imagine how things would have been different if these two former crime partners dealt in affection instead of cocaine. Sure, they have their problems - Tommy Vercetti's a control freak who is more comfortable building a criminal empire than talking about his feelings, and Lance Vance is a self-hating coke addict who guards himself from the outside world (most of whom, admittedly, just laugh about his name) with a paper-thin veneer of narcissism. <p>But who doesn't have issues? Instead of doing endless quests to expand the influence of Tommy's various businesses, why not make enough money so you can check Lance into rehab? After he's cleaned up, why not take him out to Club Malibu to show him you can have a good time without getting into the stuff? Once Tommy and Lance have found happiness in one another, rather than in money and high-powered firearms, <i>then</i> they can take over the city. They're still heinous criminals, after all, but at least they have each other.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Ok, a disclaimer up front: my Shepard's relationship with Dr. Chakwas was one of my favorite unifying elements of the Mass Effect trilogy, and I don't think I'd change a single thing about it. That said, in another playthrough with another Shepard, would I share more than just a bottle of Serrice ice brandy with her? Definitely. But no dice - the closest the Commander can get to a fling with the wise and witty medicine woman is a cherished friendship. <i>Psssh.</i> <p>This is a BioWare game. If I can't make out with a character just before the climactic final mission, can I even be certain it exists? They'll let you do it with an extraterrestrial that could <i>die from taking off her helmet</i>, yet Dr. Chakwas is left all alone in her little sick bay night after night? I'm beginning to detect some latent ageism at work here and I am not at all happy about it.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>You get Seth Green to do a voice role in your game and then you <i>don't let players date him?</i> That's… ok, that's actually pretty understandable. At first blush, going out with a hollow-boned Scott Evil doesn't sound very appealing - particularly when you could instead be dating a sexy space Australian, or a blue empath with a button nose, or a humanoid reptile dying of a romantic disease. Despite the relatively scant screentime that Joker manages to snag across the Mass Effect trilogy (usually while peering back from the helm of the Normandy), his endless jokes and dauntless loyalty still managed to steal hearts. <p>I'm just saying, BioWare would have been much better served making Joker romanceable than Kaidan (yuck). Yet the only time it saw fit to acknowledge the potential pairing was a throwaway line of dialogue in the third game, at which point he already has his sights set on EDI's new metallic form. Damn you, Joker! Her robotic arms may hold you tighter, but ours are far less likely to crush your ribcage!</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Can the 'master of unlocking' pick her way into Chris Redfield's heart? Can the pointman for S.T.A.R.S. Alpha Team show he's more than a beefcake cop with a burning need to prove himself? I'd like to know, but for whatever reason Capcom left a romance subplot out of the original Resident Evil <i>and</i> the director's cut. Talk about an oversight! What an ideal change of pace it would have been to leave a little love note in a typewriter, or a touching little herb arrangement in a safe room, or to rearrange a bunch of puzzle panels into a heart shape. <p>That's all I'm really asking for, here - they don't need to convert Resident Evil into a full-scale dating sim. Whatever it is, it can't be worse than spending a decade-and-change denying the pair's chemistry as they go from police partners to the co-founders of the Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance. Maybe the relationship doesn't work out after the adrenaline-pumping thrill of escaping the Spencer Estate wears off? That's completely fine - at least they gave it a shot.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Mario and Peach have been doing this whole ‘I rescue you, you bake me a cake, I rescue you, you give me a kiss on the cheek’ thing for almost 30 years. Clearly the kidnapper-rescuer dynamic did something for them at some point, but it's just become rote by now, and he still hasn't put a ring on it. It would be much healthier if they just broke off whatever informal courtship they maintain and see other people. <p>Peach will have her choice of royal suitors, but who should Mario try to connect with? Someone who doesn't carry around all that royal baggage. Someone who cares about his well-being enough to guide him through tutorial after tutorial. Someone who was happy for him when he and Peach were doing well, even though she cried at the thought of not seeing him. Someone whose bouncy pink braids could be made out of hair or fungus, depending on what Toad Caps actually are. Someone named Toadette.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>This must have been one of the many concepts that got left on Irrational Games' cutting room floor, right? I mean, Elizabeth and Booker would just be so perfect together! He's the grizzled veteran who lost his wife in childbirth, she's the smart but naive young woman who is ready to find her place in the big, bright world. Remember when she asked him if there was a woman in his life? And all those coins and ammunition packs she keeps finding? Yeah, she wants the 'D'... as in 'DeWitt'. You're gross. <p> They complete each other so well, it's hard to believe that BioShock Infinite didn't set the two of them up. If only Irrational devoted fewer resources to endless gunfights and more to romance! Admittedly, I didn't finish the game, so maybe this entry is in error. They have to get together in the end, right? <i>What reason could Booker and Elizabeth possibly have to not hook up</i>?</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>Ah, Varric, he whose winning smile and flowing chest hair launched a thousand Tumblr posts. The guy has a lot going for him aside from the amber forest that sprouts from his ultra-low-cut shirt, of course. You'd be hard-pressed to find a more charming scoundrel outside of the Millenium Falcon. And despite his thin facade as a conniving spymaster, he can't help but use his underworld connections to protect his fellow adventurers. <p>In more grounded terms, he's clearly the best-adjusted character in the series, and once he gets too old for the adventuring game he can always retire to run the family business… or write trashy novels full time. If only he hadn't pledged his heart to Bianca - the girl, not the crossbow. Or maybe the crossbow, too? Oh well. Statistically speaking, if Varric keeps showing up in Dragon Age games he'll have to date a protagonist at some point.</caption> </div> <div> <img src=""/> <caption><p>You've made it to the finale! Now let me see if you've performed enough favorable actions to get the makeout ending… Hmm, looks like you're still on 'warm handshake' level. Ah well. But before we part ways, make sure to note in a few of your own ideas for companions that should have been romance-able in the comments below. <p><b><i>It's just not fair, considering how these <a href="" target="_blank">8 just-plain-wrong romances</a> made it into games. At least we can still enjoy some of the <a href="" target="_blank">greatest love stories</a> in gaming.</i></b></caption> </div> Mon, 22 Dec 2014 14:00:00 -0800