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A little over two years ago, I stood in the lobby of a crowded convention center near a large group of strangers huddled around a single screen. Amid the buzz of the rest of the Game Developers Conference, this crowd intermittently gasped, laughed, and even cheered. Curious, I leaned in closer to see what they were watching.

A man was holding two PlayStation Move controllers in his hands, waving them about with cautious optimism. On the screen, a glimmering orb of light mirrored his movements and traced painterly shimmers of color against a dark backdrop.

I was impressed by the technology, the intuitive, responsive manner in which the game tracked player inputs. I was also drawn in by the striking visual style of the creation itselfhow a shadowed forest responded in real time to the addition of various elements. More than this, though, I was astounded by the audiences reactions surrounding me.

Here, right by the entrance to a convention center full of playable video games from almost every genre imaginable, the biggest draw was watching an aspiring artist craft an interactive world for the first time.

As a team member from Media Molecule guided the conference-goer through the various button prompts and mechanics, I listened to the hum of the audience and noted their exclamations of approval.

There still is some part of me that doubts the authenticity of the entire experience. But, regardless of their intent, the developers understood the most important thing about Dreams:getting in front of other people.

What is Dreams?

This long-gestating release from the team behind LittleBigPlanet and Tearaway is more of a creative platform than it is a proper game. Much like a Super Mario Maker, the product is only as good as its community. Perhaps thats why the title has been released in Early Access for almost a year now. But the official launch of Dreams happened last week, with a fully crafted campaign and tightly curated marketplace for players to dive into.

When you first fire up the game, youre greeted with a dramatic mission statement, as an ethereal voice declares (an) idea could be anything it could be EVERYTHING.

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You don’t have to be a gamer to appreciate porn games in 2019. Most adult titles are narrative-driven, focused on giving you the most enjoyable sexual experience possible. And this year saw some of the best 18+ releases and announcements to hit gaming yet.

Over the past 12 months, we’ve seen games likeHardcoded blossom,Dominatrix Simulatorreceive mainstream press coverage, and even seen some promising new sex tech games. Patreon porn games are enormously popular: The top adult Patreon game on the site, Summertime Saga, earns over $50,000 per month. If you’re interested in checking out what adult creators have to offer by way of porn games in 2019, read on for our top recommendations.

The best porn games of 2019

Here are the qualifying rules for our best-of list. All games:

  • Must include adult content of some kind
  • Must be a video game. Internet of things sex toys and sexy card games (unfortunately) don’t count
  • Have to be released in 2019 or undergo significant, noteworthy development this year

1) Best queer adult game: A Harmless Bite


If you’re unfamiliar with vore porn, the term is short for “vorarephilia.” That’s an attraction to being consumed (or consuming) another being. There are two kinds of vore, “soft vore” and “hard vore,” the latter of which featuring gore and potential death.Pellimort’sA Harmless Bitefalls into the latter. It’s not for the faint of heart. But it’s a gorgeous, beautiful, and affirming queer porn game.

A Harmless Bite followsVienna (he/him pronouns), a queer boy with a fetish for supernatural creatures. As it turns out, a cryptic named Coccolare (ze/zir pronouns) fills just the niche, complete with zir very own ravenous hunger for human flesh. But there’s a catch: Coccolare’s bite doesn’t cause lasting harm, no matter how much ze devours. Short but sweet,A Harmless Bite offers a fantastic metaphor for queer desire. And if you’re into hard vore, it’s a must-play.

2) Best retro porn game: Valkyrie Dungeon R (Ryona)


Roguelike fans, have you ever wanted a dungeon crawler that was a little sexier?Valkyrie Dungeon R (Ryona) is your answer.

Developed by GeloKaiser,Valkyrie Dungeon R is based on a low-resolution dungeon crawling video game mirroring classic, top-down fantasy games.Valkyrie Dungeon R takes the series in a different direction with lewd illustrations shown after defeat. Players can choose from three main characters, and additional features are on the way, includingchiptune music, a CGI gallery, more adult illustrations, and additional enemies.The game is simple and straightforward, but the levels are randomly generated every time, so no two playthroughs are alike.

3) Best VR game: Custom Order Maid 3D 2


Diehard hentai fans know Custom Order Maid 3D 2came out in Japan last year. But for the first time in the series’ history, developer KISS released an official English version.

In Custom Order Maid 3D 2, players manage a maidresort and train the house’s servants. In the daytime, this mostly involves singing or dancing. Once night falls, players can engage in “Yotogi” and hook up with their maids.The game features a wide variety of sexual scenarios for players to enjoy, from watching their maid masturbate to BDSM. But it’s the game’s VR features that truly shine. Using an Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, or Windows Mixed Reality device lets players hop into the game’s sex scenes and navigate the world from various angles. VR can be used during the game’s visual novel segments or to observe the maid’s body in the character creator. It’s incredibly immersive and easy to forget you aren’t really there.

WhileCustom Order Maid 3D 2is available on Steam, Valve’s version is censored. We suggest purchasing the game through Nutaku or publisher S-Court. If you have reservations about supporting the Nutaku’s controversial parent company,MindGeek, you can pick up the game on Steam and get the 18+ patch from S-Court’s storefront for an extra $5.

4) Best upcoming game: Cloud Meadow

Team Nimbus

Team Nimbus is one of the most popular NSFW Patreon creators for a reason. Its upcoming gameCloud Meadow is an incredibly ambitious monster breeding title.ThinkStardew Valley meets Fakku, and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what you’re getting into.

InCloud Meadow, players star as frontiersmen tasked with improving their town’s farm. As it turns out, this includes venturing out into the wild, breeding monsters with each other on your farm, and having plenty of sex.Monster species range from catboys and catgirls toharpies, centaurs, demons, and dragons, among many others.The game openly flaunts its queer pairing options, too, letting players hook up with whoever they please, regardless of gender and pronouns used.

WhileCloud Meadow is still in active development, the game’s beta is available publicly. Team Nimbus’ Patreon also offers direct access to the games’ most recent builds, along with other various goodies.

5) Our most highly anticipated porn game: Uragoner

Uragon Games

Uragoneris the newest release to make this list, which is not an easy feat in its own right. But this debut game from Uragon Games is making waves for its unique take on both anime dating sims and side-scrolling combat.

Uragoner casts players as an administrator for a private security firm in 2069’s cyberpunk dystopian future (nice). Players recruit mercenaries, or “custodians,” and take them into turn-based, tactical combat. Each character has their own personality and inventory, and if they’re killed in combat, they’ll stay dead. Keeping your team alive is a primary concern for one reason in particular: Your mercenaries are adorable anime girls. During off-hours, you can go on dates with them, bond, and even sleep together.

WhileUragoner is still very early in development, its creators tease an early build is in the works and will launch “soon.” For more information, head on over to the game’s Patreon.

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An indie game by the name ofEnchanted Portalsis on its way to a potential release on Nintendo Switch and PC. A trailerwas released Tuesday on YouTube, announcing that a Kickstarter for it will open on Oct. 24. Many gamers were quick to notice that the graphics and gameplay looked strikingly familiar, drawing a comparison to none other than top-selling platformer Cuphead.

Cuphead,released byStudioMDHR, is an indie game known for its 1930s cartoon-inspired art style, whimsical music, and challenging gameplay. Just two weeks after its release on PC and Xbox One, it sold a million copies worldwide. As with any other successful title,Cuphead has seen its fair share of ripoffs andscams.

Many pointed out that not only doesEnchanted Portals use a similar art style reminiscent of 1930s cartoons, but the trailer footage also shows similar gameplay mechanics and boss fights. Many fans have been quick to point out the similarities and are expressing their frustrations online, accusingEnchanted Portals of ripping off the popular indie title for a quick cash grab.

A video game called Enchanted Portals has had a lot of people call it a ripoff to Cuphead and I have to agree with that consensus. This game feels almost plagiaristic as it has the same mechanics and the art style Cuphead achieved so well. This game is not off to a good start, Twitter user @Animated_Antic wrote.

UK MPs have called for the government to regulate the games industry’s use of loot boxes under current gambling legislation — urging a blanket ban on the sale of loot boxes to players who are children.

Kids should instead be able to earn in-game credits to unlock look boxes, MPs have suggested in a recommendation that won’t be music to the games industry’s ears.

Loot boxes refer to virtual items in games that can be bought with real-world money and do not reveal their contents in advance. The MPs argue the mechanic should be considered games of chance played for money’s worth and regulated by the UK Gambling Act.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS) parliamentary committee makes the recommendations in a report published today following an enquiry into immersive and addictive technologies that saw it take evidence from a number of tech companies including Fortnite maker Epic Games; Facebook-owned Instagram; and Snapchap.

The committee said it found representatives from the games industry to be “wilfully obtuse” in answering questions about typical patterns of play — data the report emphasizes is necessary for proper understanding of how players are engaging with games — as well as calling out some games and social media company representatives for demonstrating “a lack of honesty and transparency”, leading it to question what the companies have to hide.

“The potential harms outlined in this report can be considered the direct result of the way in which the ‘attention economy’ is driven by the objective of maximising user engagement,” the committee writes in a summary of the report which it says explores “how data-rich immersive technologies are driven by business models that combine people’s data with design practices to have powerful psychological effects”.

As well as trying to pry information about of games companies, MPs also took evidence from gamers during the course of the enquiry.

In one instance the committee heard that a gamer spent up to £1,000 per year on loot box mechanics in Electronic Arts’s Fifa series.

A member of the public also reported that their adult son had built up debts of more than £50,000 through spending on microtransactions in online game RuneScape. The maker of that game, Jagex, told the committee that players “can potentially spend up to £1,000 a week or £5,000 a month”.

In addition to calling for gambling law to be applied to the industry’s lucrative loot box mechanic, the report calls on games makers to face up to responsibilities to protect players from potential harms, saying research into possible negative psychosocial harms has been hampered by the industry’s unwillingness to share play data.

“Data on how long people play games for is essential to understand what normal and healthy — and, conversely, abnormal and potentially unhealthy — engagement with gaming looks like. Games companies collect this information for their own marketing and design purposes; however, in evidence to us, representatives from the games industry were wilfully obtuse in answering our questions about typical patterns of play,” it writes.

“Although the vast majority of people who play games find it a positive experience, the minority who struggle to maintain control over how much they are playing experience serious consequences for them and their loved ones. At present, the games industry has not sufficiently accepted responsibility for either understanding or preventing this harm. Moreover, both policy-making and potential industry interventions are being hindered by a lack of robust evidence, which in part stems from companies’ unwillingness to share data about patterns of play.”

The report recommends the government require games makers share aggregated player data with researchers, with the committee calling for a new regulator to oversee a levy on the industry to fund independent academic research — including into ‘Gaming disorder‘, an addictive condition formally designated by the World Health Organization — and to ensure that “the relevant data is made available from the industry to enable it to be effective”.

“Social media platforms and online games makers are locked in a relentless battle to capture ever more of people’s attention, time and money. Their business models are built on this, but it’s time for them to be more responsible in dealing with the harms these technologies can cause for some users,” said DCMS committee chair, Damian Collins, in a statement.

“Loot boxes are particularly lucrative for games companies but come at a high cost, particularly for problem gamblers, while exposing children to potential harm. Buying a loot box is playing a game of chance and it is high time the gambling laws caught up. We challenge the Government to explain why loot boxes should be exempt from the Gambling Act.

“Gaming contributes to a global industry that generates billions in revenue. It is unacceptable that some companies with millions of users and children among them should be so ill-equipped to talk to us about the potential harm of their products. Gaming disorder based on excessive and addictive game play has been recognised by the World Health Organisation. It’s time for games companies to use the huge quantities of data they gather about their players, to do more to proactively identify vulnerable gamers.”

The committee wants independent research to inform the development of a behavioural design code of practice for online services. “This should be developed within an adequate timeframe to inform the future online harms regulator’s work around ‘designed addiction’ and ‘excessive screen time’,” it writes, citing the government’s plan for a new Internet regulator for online harms.

MPs are also concerned about the lack of robust age verification to keep children off age-restricted platforms and games.

The report identifies inconsistencies in the games industry’s ‘age-ratings’ stemming from self-regulation around the distribution of games (such as online games not being subject to a legally enforceable age-rating system, meaning voluntary ratings are used instead).

“Games companies should not assume that the responsibility to enforce age-ratings applies exclusively to the main delivery platforms: All companies and platforms that are making games available online should uphold the highest standards of enforcing age-ratings,” the committee writes on that.

“Both games companies and the social media platforms need to establish effective age verification tools. They currently do not exist on any of the major platforms which rely on self-certification from children and adults,” Collins adds.

During the enquiry it emerged that the UK government is working with tech companies including Snap to try to devise a centralized system for age verification for online platforms.

A section of the report on Effective Age Verification cites testimony from deputy information commissioner Steve Wood raising concerns about any move towards “wide-spread age verification [by] collecting hard identifiers from people, like scans of passports”.

Wood instead pointed the committee towards technological alternatives, such as age estimation, which he said uses “algorithms running behind the scenes using different types of data linked to the self-declaration of the age to work out whether this person is the age they say they are when they are on the platform”.

Snapchat’s Will Scougal also told the committee that its platform is able to monitor user signals to ensure users are the appropriate age — by tracking behavior and activity; location; and connections between users to flag a user as potentially underage. 

The report also makes a recommendation on deepfake content, with the committee saying that malicious creation and distribution of deepfake videos should be regarded as harmful content.

“The release of content like this could try to influence the outcome of elections and undermine people’s public reputation,” it warns. “Social media platforms should have clear policies in place for the removal of deepfakes. In the UK, the Government should include action against deepfakes as part of the duty of care social media companies should exercise in the interests of their users, as set out in the Online Harms White Paper.”

“Social media firms need to take action against known deepfake films, particularly when they have been designed to distort the appearance of people in an attempt to maliciously damage their public reputation, as was seen with the recent film of the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi,” adds Collins.

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Fully autonomous cars may (or may not) be just around the corner, but in the meantime, a startup that’s building in-car apps to help human drivers pass the time when behind the wheel has raised a round of funding.

Drivetime — which makes voice-based trivia quizzes, games and interactive stories that people can play while driving — has raised $11 million in funding led by Makers Fund (a prolific investor in gaming startups), with participation from Amazon (via the Alexa Fund) and Google (via its Assistant investment program).

The startup today has eight “channels” on its platform consisting of games and stories that you can access either within a limited free-to-play tier or via a paid subscription ($9.99 a month or $99.99 a year). The plan is to use the funding to continue expanding that catalog, as well as investing in deeper integrations with its new big-name strategic investors, who themselves have longstanding and deep interests in bringing more voice services and content to the in-car experience.

Co-founder and CEO Niko Vuori told TechCrunch that his ultimate ambition is for Drivetime to become “the Sirius XM of interactive content” for cars, with hundreds of different channels of content.

In keeping with those plans, along with the funding, Drivetime is today announcing a key content deal.

It has teamed up with the long-running, popular game show Jeopardy to build a trivia channel for the platform, which lets drivers test their own skills and also play against other drivers and people they know. The Jeopardy channel will source content from the TV show’s trove of IP and come with another familiar detail: it will be narrated by Alex Trebek, with a new quiz getting published every weekday for premium users.

That social element of the Jeopardy game is not a coincidence. The San Francisco-based startup is founded by Zynga alums, with Vuori and his co-founders Justin Cooper and Cory Johnson also working together at another startup called Rocket Games since leaving the social games giant and exiting that to gaming giant Penn National for up to $170 million. That track record goes some way to explaining the strong list of investors in the new startup.

“Social and interactive formats are the next frontier in audio entertainment,” said Makers Fund founding partner Jay Chi, in a statement. “Niko, Justin Cooper and Cory Johnson, with a decade-long history of working together and a proven track record in building new platforms, is the best team to bring this idea to life.”

“Gaming and entertainment are among customers’ favorite use cases for Alexa, and we think those categories will only grow in popularity as Alexa is integrated into more vehicles,” said Paul Bernard, director of the Alexa Fund at Amazon, in a separate statement. “Drivetime stands out for its focus on voice-first games in the car, and we’re excited to work with them to broaden the Alexa Auto experience and help customers make the most of their time behind the wheel.”

In addition to the three investors in this latest round, prior to this Drivetime had raised about $4 million from backers that include Felicis Ventures, Fuel Capital, Webb Investment Network (Maynard Webb’s fund) and Access Ventures.

Vuori declined to say how many installs or active users the app has today — although from the looks of it on AppAnnie, it’s seeing decent if not blockbuster success on iOS and Android so far.

Instead, the company prefers to focus on another stat, its addressable market, which it says is 110 million drivers in North America alone.

Meanwhile, adding a Jeopardy channel is building on what has worked best so far. The most popular category at the moment is trivia, with Tunetime (a “name that tune” game) coming in second and storytelling a third.

Drivetime’s premise is an interesting one. Drivers are a captive audience, but one that has up to now had a relatively limited amount of entertainment created for it, focusing mainly on music and spoken word.

However, the rise of voice-based interfaces and interactivity using natural language — spurred by the rise of personal assistant apps and in-home hubs like Amazon’s Echo — have opened a new opportunity, developing interactive, voice-based content for drivers to engage with more proactively.

You might think that this sounds like a recipe for a car accident. Won’t a driver get too distracted trying to remember the fourth president of the United States, or who was known as the father of the Constitution? (Hint: It’s the same guy.)

Vuori claims it’s actually the reverse: Having an interactive game that requires the driver to speak out loud can focus him or her and keep the driver more alert.

“We are double-dipping in safety,” he said. “On the one hand, we embody the safety aspects of Alertness Maintaining Tasks (AMTs). But we also act as a preventative, meaning that while players engage with Drivetime, they are not engaging with anything else.”

While the content today may serve as a way of keeping drivers from doing things they shouldn’t be doing while in a car, there is another obvious opportunity that might come as drivers become less necessary and will need other things to occupy themselves.

Longer term, the Jeopardy deal could usher in other channels based on popular game shows. Sony Pictures Television Games, which owns the rights to it, also owns Wheel of Fortune and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

“We are thrilled to work with Sony Pictures Television Games to bring Jeopardy, the greatest game show on the planet, to an underserved audience that desperately needs interactive entertainment the most – the 110 million commuters in North America driving to and from work by themselves every day,” said Vuori said in a statement.

Interestingly, despite the growth of “skills” for Alexa or apps for Google Home and other home hubs, and the overall popularity of these as a way of interacting with apps and sourcing information, Vuori says that he hasn’t seen any competition emerge yet from other app developers to build voice-based entertainment for drivers in the way that Drivetime has.

That gives the company ample opportunity to continue picking up new users — and more deals with publishers and content companies looking for more mileage (sorry) for their legacy IP and new business.

“Drivetime is one of the early pioneers in creating safe, stimulating entertainment for drivers in the car,” Ilya Gelfenbeyn, founding lead of the Google Assistant Investments Program, noted in a statement. “More and more people are using their voice to stay productive on the road, asking the Google Assistant on Android and iOS phones to help send text messages, make calls and access entertainment hands free. We share Drivetime’s vision, and look forward to working with their team to make the daily commute more enjoyable.”

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Mobile gaming continues to hold its own, accounting for 10% of the time users spend in apps — a percentage that has remained steady over the years, even though our time in apps overall has grown by 50% over the past two years. In addition, games are continuing to grow their share of consumer spend, notes App Annie in a new research report out this week, timed with E3.

Thanks to growth in hyper-casual and cross-platform gaming in particular, mobile games are on track to reach 60% market share in consumer spend in 2019.

The new report looks at how much time users spend gaming versus using other apps, monetization and regional highlights within the gaming market, among other things.

Despite accounting for a sizable portion of users’ time, games don’t lead the other categories, App Annie says.

Instead, social and communications apps account for half (50%) of the time users spent globally in apps in 2018, followed by video players and editors at 15%, then games at 10%.

In the U.S., users generally have eight games installed per device; globally, we play an average of two to five games per month.

The number of total hours spent on games continues to grow roughly 10% year-over-year, as well, thanks to existing gamers increasing their time in games and from a broadening user base, including a large number of mobile app newcomers from emerging markets.

This has also contributed to a widening age range for gamers.

Today, the majority of time spent in gaming is by those aged 25 and older. In many cases, these players may not even classify themselves as “gamers,” App Annie noted.

While games may not lead the categories in terms of time spent, they do account for a large number of mobile downloads and the majority of consumer spending on mobile.

One-third of all worldwide downloads are games across iOS, Google Play and third-party app stores.

Last year, 1.6+ million games launched on Google Play and 1.1+ million arrived on iOS.

On Android, 74 cents of every dollar is spent on games, with 95% of those purchases coming as in-app purchases, not paid downloads. App Annie didn’t have figures for iOS.

Google Play is known for having more downloads than iOS, but continues to trail on consumer spend. In 2018, Google Play grabbed a 72% share of worldwide downloads, compared with 28% on iOS. Meanwhile, Google Play only saw 36% of consumer spend versus 64% on iOS.

One particular type of gaming jumped out in the new report: racing games.

Consumer spend in this subcategory of gaming grew 7.9 times as fast as the overall mobile gaming market. Adventure games did well, too, growing roughly five times the rate of games in general. Music games and board games were also popular.

Of course, gaming expands beyond mobile. But it’s surprising to see how large a share of the broader market can be attributed to mobile gaming.

According to App Annie, mobile gaming is larger than all other channels, including home game consoles, handheld consoles and computers (Mac and PC). It’s also 20% larger than all these other categories combined — a shift from only a few years ago, attributed to the growth in the mobile consumer base, which allows mobile gaming to reach more people.

Cross-platform gaming is a key gaming trend today, thanks to titles like PUBG and Fortnite in particular, which were among the most downloaded games across several markets last year.

Meanwhile, hyper-casual games are appealing to those who don’t think of themselves as gamers, which has helped to broaden the market further.

App Annie is predicting the next big surge will come from AR gaming, with Harry Potter: Wizards Unite expected to bring Pokémon Go-like frenzy back to AR, bringing the new title $100 million in its first 30 days. The game is currently in beta testing in select markets, with plans for a 2019 release.

In terms of regions, China’s impact on gaming tends to be outsized, but its growth last year was limited due to the game license regulations. This forced publishers to look outside the country for growth — particularly in markets like North America and Japan, App Annie said.

Meanwhile, India, Brazil, Russia and Indonesia lead the emerging markets with regard to game
downloads, but established markets of the U.S. and China remain strong players in terms of sheer numbers.

With the continued steady growth in consumer spend and the stable time spent in games, App Annie states the monetization potential for games is growing. In 2018, there were 1,900 games that made more than $5 million, up from 1,200 in 2016. In addition, consumer spend in many key markets is still growing too — like the 105% growth in two years in China, for example, and the 45% growth in the U.S.

The full report delves into other regions as well as game publishers’ user acquisition strategies. It’s available for download here.

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Team Sonic Racing is a huge disappointment. 

Yes, it’s a very mediocre and even frustrating kart racing game, but what really makes it such a bummer is the fact that its predecessor, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, is perhaps the best kart racing game of all time.

Perhaps my own expectations were too high, but Team Sonic Racing gave me whiplash. It’s astounding how a series could regress so much and seem to ignore every aspect that made it stand out from the kart racing pack. 

Where did Team Sonic Racing go wrong? And what exactly makes kart racing game great?

Let’s take a step back real quick.

The greats

The Mario Kart series is well-regarded as the pinnacle of kart racing games. With its smooth controls, delightfully varied courses, and fun items, Mario Kart tends to get better and better with every release.

Look at Mario Kart 8, an amazing game. The tracks are fantastic (and have great music) and the vehicle handling is the best of all time even as paths twist upside down and dip underwater, and racers soar through the air.

‘Mario Kart 8’ is a blast.

Image: nintendo

Dipping back into the ’90s, Diddy Kong Racing on the Nintendo 64 took the popularity and success of Mario Kart 64‘s take on 3D racing into new directions. Introducing a light story mode and a hub world, Diddy Kong Racing added an extra dimension to the genre while simultaneously expanding our definition of what vehicles can be used to race.

Diddy Kong Racing allows players to choose if they’d like to race with a regular kart, a hovercraft, or a little airplane. Each has its own perks and they add a fun extra layer to the game.

In 2012, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed brought together the polished feel of Mario Kart with the varied vehicles of Diddy Kong Racing and smashed it masterfully into its own imaginative courses. The variety is honestly stunning as tracks veer through flooded tunnels, grounded tracks open up into air battles, and racers drive and soar through the world of dreams.

Shifting between driving, boating, and flying is seamless, the controls are smooth, and the items add some fun variety to races. It’s a spectacular kart racing game.

Team Sonic Racing took everything that made Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed and threw it out the window.

Falling short

Team Sonic Racing’s unique selling point is its team-based racing — players choose a single racer like Sonic, Blaze, or Eggman, and hit the tracks with two other racers at their side, either human comrades or NPCs. Teammates can trade items with each other and give each other boosts.

Trailing a teammate’s trail will give you a speed boost.

Image: sega

Sometimes that’s all fine and good and you all end up taking the top three spots in a race, but sometimes the team races can be frustrating. I can be in first place for the entire race, sending items to my teammates every time I get one to give them a leg up, and then they end up in last and second-to-last place at the finish line.

The driving is very clunky

Having such little control over how the team does as a whole is a pain and seems like an unnecessary gimmick, especially when it can cost you a race.

There is the option to play solo races, which works like your standard kart racer, but without the added opportunities to boost off of your teammates and share items, it’s a bit less exciting and feels slower.

The driving is very clunky and the handling is rough, to say the least. Oftentimes the game feels pretty slow, which for a racing game (especially one starring notorious speed junkie Sonic the Hedgehog) is a huge bummer.

It’s all just so clunky.

Image: sega

One particular annoyance that I don’t understand the idea behind is the items. Only certain racer types get certain items, and for some reason they all look very similar. They’re called whisps and they look like little squids. Unless you use them, there’s no way to know what they do, and even if you do know what they do, it’s easy to confuse them because they’re just different colored little squids.

On top of that, the tracks themselves aren’t very exciting. They’re very standard, grounded levels without much flair, and a few of them look pretty similar to each other. The designs are just plain unimaginative. 

All of this adds up to a disappointing experience. Team Sonic Racing does not get my heart pumping and after playing for a few hours, I wasn’t compelled to jump back in at all. But I put a whole lot of time into it regardless, hoping things would click. Nothing clicked.

Everything in Team Sonic Racing just falls short. You’re better off playing almost any other recent kart racing game.

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With the Mega Sg, everything old is new again.
Image: zlata ivleva / mashable

The Mega Sg, a modern console built to play 30-year-old Sega Genesis games, is an impressive piece of hardware.

It was also my first foray into the world of classic gaming — by which I mean, not things like Nintendo’s official SNES Classic, but something that actually relies on the physical products that came out in the ‘80s and ‘90s. The Mega Sg, produced by Analogue, makes it possible to play Genesis classics (as well as Sega CD and 32X games). It also comes with a pre-loaded game called Ultracore (formerly known as Hardcore) that was almost 100% completed for the Genesis but never officially released.

The Mega Sg does a fantastic job of making old cartridges feel new again, thanks to HD and high-quality audio, and even replicating the experience of playing games on a CRT TV.

Of course, with the Genesis releasing roughly five years before I was born, it was my first time really handling anything Genesis-related. Sure, I’d played a friend’s Genesis in the ‘90s a couple times, but the console was pretty unfamiliar territory for me.

A quick story

My inexperience actually caused a problem that I feel compelled to share. When I got my hands on a few Genesis games, I tried popping them in the Mega Sg to play them, but none of them worked.

My inexperience was glaring

I looked up some cleaning techniques and decided to take all four games down to a local store and get them looked at, just in case there were any other problems with the hardware. After giving the connector pins a quick swab with a Q-tip dipped in isopropyl alcohol, the guy at the store checked each in his multi-system test console. They all booted up without issue.

I brought them back and plopped them in the Mega Sg again, but still nothing. After a frustrating couple of days spent messing around with the console’s extensive settings, I realized I just wasn’t pushing the cartridges down far enough.

‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ is properly seated here.

Image: zlata ivleva / mashable

That’s right: I wasn’t able to play any Genesis games for four days because I wasn’t pushing them down far enough in the slot.

I felt like a child who tries to tap and swipe on a magazine. Here I thought I was being careful by not being too rough with the old technology!

It’s not like I’ve never seen a cartridge before. I had a Nintendo 64, which had a similar top-loading design, and I’ve operated NES and SNES consoles without problems. Genesis games just require a little extra muscle.

Here’s a tip for anyone interested in a Mega Sg: You gotta give Genesis cartridges a good shove to seat them correctly.

Back in business

The process of cleaning decades-old games, thoroughly customizing the console settings and display settings to my liking, and booting up Genesis games I never had a chance to really experience before has been a lot of fun.

With the 16-bit style of the Mega Sg’s home menu, the compatible throwback controller from 8BitDo, and the classic look of games like Sonic 2, Altered Beast, Shadowrun, and Mortal Kombat, my experience with the Mega Sg felt like I was being transported back in time.

The M30 2.4g wireless gamepad is compatible with the Mega Sg and helps complete the  experience with the modern bonus of Bluetooth.

Image: zlata ivleva / mashable

There’s an extra special feeling to playing a game like Sonic 2, one of the best side-scrollers of all time, using an actual Sonic 2 cartridge with a controller that suits the era. Playing it on a smartphone doesn’t really do it justice.

But that’s kind of a niche market. Ultracore, the only game that comes with the Mega Sg, is a game that never actually came out, so there’s no real nostalgia factor there.

The cost of classics

To truly appreciate the Mega Sg, you need to either already have a collection of Sega games or to start collecting them. And if you want to play any Sega CD games, you need the Sega CD accessory. These are available thanks to the online resale market, but they’re going to require a little care to make sure they’re in good shape.

The Mega Sg comes with an adapter for Mega System games. People can purchase other adapters for other Sega consoles as they come out later in 2019, which opens up a playable library of tons of games.

Even the Master System adapter looks cool.

Image: zlata ivleva / mashable

That’s a fun little hobby in itself, but with the recent announcement of the Sega Genesis Mini, which will come pre-loaded with 40 Genesis games, the Mega Sg is certainly not the choice for everybody, especially for someone who doesn’t really care about collecting classic hardware.

Still, the Mega Sg exists as an impressive, sleek console with tons of customization options. The SD card slot in its side (meant for firmware updates), means there’s potential for cracks, further customizations, and the option to run all kinds of games without actually needing to own them.

Of course, that’s not what the folks at Analogue are advertising, but it’s a fact.

Still, as with collecting vinyl records or buying music cassettes, which have been popping back up in stores in recent years, there’s an unmistakable release of dopamine that comes when you (successfully) pop in a 30-year-old game and run that cartridge as it was meant to be played. That’s a feeling the Mega Sg captures perfectly.

The Mega Sg delivers nostalgia on a silver platter.

Image: zlata ivleva / mashable

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Joker has arrived.
Image: nintendo

In a surprise update, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate for the Nintendo Switch is getting its first DLC fighter and stage, a Stage Builder mode, a new video editing feature, and more.

Check out the full video on the update here:

Persona invades Smash

We knew about Joker from Persona 5 coming to Smash Ultimate, the first character in the game’s planned paid DLC releases, but Tuesday night was the first time we got to see what his actual moveset looks like.

Joker has his guns for ranged attacks, a knife for melee attacks, and a couple of magic moves (one of which looks very similar to Ness’s PK Fire attack) plus a grappling hook for recovery. The twist with Joker is his Rebellion Gauge that fills up when he takes damage or uses his Rebel’s Guard block move. When it’s full, Joker can unleash his persona Arsene, which improves a handful of his moves to help him dish more damage.

Along with the Joker, Smash Ultimate is introducing a new Memento stage inspired by Persona which changes colors based on the music track that’s playing.

This DLC alone costs $5.99 and is available now. Players can also purchase the All Challengers Pack for $24.99 which will unlock Wednesday’s new content plus the next four DLC fighters when they come out at later dates.

Creating custom content

A new Stage Builder feature has also been added to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate in the free 3.0 update, allowing players to create their own unique stages with tons of customization options.

While custom stages have been a part of the Smash franchise for a while now, Ultimate‘s Stage Builder is certainly the most robust one, taking advantage of the Switch’s touch screen to allow players to draw their own creations and play around with them in imaginative ways.

The possibilities are endless with the Stage Builder.

Image: nintendo

You can make objects move, spin, and twist on stages, you can draw your own shapes, and you can add unique obstacles and items to stages. The Stage Builder doesn’t just stick to two dimensions either; players can work in layers to create fully realized designs with backgrounds and foregrounds to aid their visions.

Custom stages are able to be shared online and downloaded by other players, and if you like a certain stage builder’s work you can follow them and see when they release new content.

Along those lines, Smash Ultimate is also adding advanced video editing features to help players create fun and cool videos of their Smash action and share them online.

It’s nice to see Nintendo adding these new free features to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate rather than just sticking to paid content. With four more fighters still set to join the fray in the future, hopefully there will be more additions to keep the game fresh for players who aren’t exactly interested in paying for new fighters.

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Being inclusive and feminine is badass AF in 'Sayonara Wild Hearts.'
Image: simogo

As a girl, I used to wake up and start my day by reenacting the movements of Sailor Moon‘s moon crystal power transformation. Though I didn’t know it, it was my extremely dorky version of a morning affirmation. It made me feel powerful, invigorated, imbibed with a uniquely girlish magic.

If one could distill that sensation into a game, you’d get Sayonara Wild Hearts.

Arriving on the Nintendo Switch later this year (no specific date has been announced yet), the platformer from award-winning indie game studio Simogo combines anime vibes with a punk-pop soundscape reminiscent of Grimes. Part endless runner, part rhythm game, part music video, it delivers what the tiny Swedish game studio is best known for: a singular, gorgeously designed, full-bodied experience unlike any other game of its ilk.

Every moment of the hands-on preview felt like a never-ending free fall into pure inertia and exhilaration. Imagine the heart-in-your-throat feeling you get at the top of a rollercoaster, only sustained over the duration of an entire game level.

Unlike Simogo’s previous hits, there’s little emphasis on narrative. After establishing a vague mythic backstory, you dive head first into the neon fever dream world of an unnamed female protagonist, who transforms into a badass masked biker. You navigate the vibrant metropolis of impossible architecture at breakneck speeds, overcoming new obstacles introduced in each level. 

You dive head first into the neon fever dream world of an unnamed female protagonist, who transforms into a badass masked biker.

“It’s about being bombastic and spectacular,” said Simon Flesser, the creative lead of Simogo’s two-person team, over Skype. “The little story there is is just an excuse to have cool characters do cool stuff.”

But no one pulls off cool for the sake of cool quite like Simogo does.

The story is vague and surface level, but heightens the visceral experience of otherwise standard endless runner mechanics. There’s nothing new about collecting hearts or timing button presses correctly while racing down a road. But Sayonara Wild Hearts‘ effervescent visual and musical palette, along with in-air sword battles with rival lady biker gangs, makes them feel fresh as hell.

“A strong framing is important, even if it’s not done textually or with story. You miss out on that connection between the player and the experience if you don’t feel like a game is speaking to you with a specific personality or voice,” said Flesser. “It has to reach out with its hand to let the player in. And for lots of games, the absence of personality pushes people away.”  

You know, just your typical Wednesday, falling through space-time

Image: simogo

What makes Sayonara Wild Hearts so unique also comes down to Flesser’s unique relationship to music as someone with synesthesia. He often sees music in colors, along with other odd sensory crossfires.

“It’s hard to talk about because it’s so intangible. And euphorbia is a very intangible feeling too,” he said.

But the palpably euphoric experience of sound and music that became Sayonara Wild Hearts clicked into place when he was messing around with the early prototype and listening to a pop playlist of Carly Rae Jepsen, Sia, and Churches.

The pink icing on the delightful neon cake that is Sayonara Wild Hearts is its decidedly feminine world. From what I can tell, the world is entirely made up of women, from the characters to the pop singer.

“Really we wanted the world to be female-centric simply because we think we have enough male-centric games. And that’s boring,” said Flesser.

All the enemies in ‘Sayonara Wild Hearts’ serve lewks to kill.

Image: simogo

Its girlish spirit isn’t ever condescending or self-congratulatory, either. Sayonara Wild Hearts simply uses the feminine as a pastiche for a traditionally masculine, action-heavy type gameplay. Without calling attention to itself, this makes for one of the most quietly empowering female experiences I’ve ever had in a video game.

Because in Sayonara Wild Hearts you kick ass by overcoming every wild new thing the world hurls at you, never missing a beat, never taking a breath to slow down. And really, isn’t that a distillation of what being a woman in this world is like? Only in this version, you get to hack those enemies with beautiful dancer-like sword fights.

“To be honest the entire game is just trying to be as inviting to everyone as possible,” Flesser said.

It certainly does that, and more. Because through Sayonara Wild Hearts’ badass flips and tricks, I might’ve just found my new geeky lady magic infused morning affirmation ritual.

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