Episode 62 - The End of Physical Media

Since the beginning of video games, the physical object has been a core part of the experience. The game disc, the manual, the box, the strategy guide—all of these are tangible symbols of the hobby that have lasted for decades. We now find ourselves in a place where the manuals have disappeared, the online platforms have expanded and the consoles are doing away with physical media readers. In this episode, we talk about the evolution of the video game as a physical product and the impact on the hobby and gamer community.

Intro music provided by sawsquarenoise. Used with permission.

Episode 58 - Reimagining the Classics

For the entirety of the past console generation, remakes and remasters have been the hottest trend in gaming. You can nearly be assured that if a game sold well or is being talked about by enough fans, there is likely a plan to rerelease the game for modern consoles to sell additional copies with almost no downside risk to the publisher. Games like Final Fantasy VII and Resident Evil 2, some of the most iconic games of all time, are going well beyond a simple remaster and redefining the entire game. In this episode, we explore the art of the possible and discuss how we would reimagine some games that are high on our list as candidates for reimagining.

Intro music provided by sawsquarenoise. Used with permission.

BCG Review - Dead Cells

BCG Review - Dead Cells
Platform: PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

BCG Verdict: Over a year after it’s early access release, Dead Cells has taken a very good game and made it great. The attention to detail and polish on this unabashedly in-your-face roguelike metroidvania really shows. In a time where there are plenty of options for roguelikes and metroidvanias, Dead Cells shines through as a best of both worlds alternative, providing fast-paced action and configurability for just the right price.

You can get yourself a copy of Dead Cells for Switch, or for PS4. Using these links gives BCG a commission and helps to support the show.

Review:

In episode 38 of the BCG podcast (June 2017), I gave my initial impressions of an interesting early access game that showed great potential. Fast-paced roguelike gameplay combined with the exploration components of a metroidvania not only proved to be a unique blend of two well-loved genres but also showed how a challenging game can also be actually fun--especially to a Business Casual Gamer. At the time, I spoke positively about the game; however, I had no idea where a year’s worth of feedback and refinement could take the experience.

Dead Cells  offers something for everyone in a rich, action-packed world.

Dead Cells offers something for everyone in a rich, action-packed world.

Frequent listeners to the podcast will recall that BCGers tend to have a love-hate relationship with roguelikes. While we enjoy games like The Binding of Isaac and Enter the Gungeon, play sessions can very quickly devolve into the nightmarish, “what did I accomplish in that last hour?” situation. As business casual gamers, we like to see the fruits of our--admittedly abbreviated--labor, and losing an hour to a roguelike with little to show for it (a common occurrence) is not an ideal outcome.

What’s so fascinating about this game, in fact, is that I never got that feeling, even after multiple deaths. The game seems to accentuate two things: velocity and power. Even in the face of a clean restart, it’s quick to present to you a (likely new) way of mangling the hordes of enemies in your way as you explore complex labyrinths sprawling about. Where games like Enter the Gungeon seem slightly afraid to offer you too much too soon, Dead Cells is all about acceleration, accentuating your endurance and brutality at a relatively frequent pace. Those that study theories of fun will certainly recognize this style of leaving breadcrumbs at short intervals to help keep players engaged, and it works. This is one of the first roguelikes where death simply means more time to have fun as opposed to a driver of mounting frustration.

Upgrades are aplenty, with some of them persisting through death.

Upgrades are aplenty, with some of them persisting through death.

And it’s good, too, that Dead Cells has struck this chord so well, as without it, the experience would almost certainly fall short for BCGers. It seems that the last year has found ways to reduce overall difficulty without making it feel less difficult. I quickly learned to hack through enemies with great elegance, all the while distinctly conscious of the fact that my run may be quickly ended with one simple lapse of concentration. The game somehow bolsters that feeling of power while providing an undercurrent of challenge.

Dead Cell’s pixelated graphics really suit the experience. Sprites are crisp and colorful, and animation is fluid and engaging. Many times during my playthroughs, I found myself enamored by the attention to detail: hanging cages that swing when touched, pulsating things on the ground that seem to react to your very presence, and unique lighting to help further sell the mood. Likewise, sound effects are crisp and well done. The soundtrack is strong as well, though I often found myself unintentionally disregarding it as I focused on the immediate tasks at hand. To that end, I think it hits just the right spot: not too intrusive, but there to do its job when needed.

Colors are sharp and animations are fluid.

Colors are sharp and animations are fluid.

As you’d expect in a game of this type, controls are precise and responsive. I found playing with an Xbox One controller to be a pleasant experience. There’s little to no lag with inputs, which is of particular importance in a game where you only have a few hits until your one life is expended. A large portion of the power a player draws from the game is directly related to their ability to attack, dodge, and maneuver their way in and out of peril, and I’m very happy to see that developers Motion Twin got this dialed in correctly.

It may go without saying for a roguelike, but all of these aspects, combined with typically short play sessions, make this game a great consideration for business casual gamers. I’ve had no problem starting and stopping many times, each iteration (read: death) bringing me closer to upgrades and new weapons, each of which persist across runs. It’s these small carrots that keep the game compelling, and as mentioned earlier, Dead Cells has no issue doling them out fairly liberally. That said, all of this feedback to the player doesn’t dilute the challenge component of the experience. All in all, it’s still a rough game to tackle, albeit not as difficult as some others of its type.

Temporary item purchases help accelerate runs... for a price.

Temporary item purchases help accelerate runs... for a price.

All in all, I was surprised to find myself stuck to the screen when playing this game. While I can appreciate the amazingness of games like Enter the Gungeon, I rarely ever find myself choosing to play that game when I have 20 minutes to kill. With Dead Cells, I’ve had no problem doing just that, each time approaching the game with intent to just have some fun for a short while. I think this--more than anything--speaks to why this game is likely to be remembered as a true classic in its time. If you’re looking for a fresh introduction to roguelikes, I’d definitely recommend giving this one a try.

You can get yourself a copy of Dead Cells for Switch, or for PS4. Using these links gives BCG a commission and helps to support the show.

The hero even has a "roar" animation akin to the amazing  Guardian Heroes .

The hero even has a "roar" animation akin to the amazing Guardian Heroes.

BCG Ratings:
Multiplayer Fun: N/A; streamer mode untested
Time Sensitivity: Excellent (Start and stop quickly)
Duration: Short, excellent replayability
Family Applicability: Teen and Interested Gamers (Not for young children or non-gamers)

Ratings Explained:
BCG Ratings are our attempt to summarize a game’s most critical factors for the business casual gamer. See the descriptions below for details.

Multiplayer Fun - This attempts to measure the fun factor for business casual gamers that don’t have hours to sink into a multiplayer experience. Ratings of “BCG Friendly” are games that are casually-focused in multiplayer environments, whereas “Hardcore Only” ratings are generally more challenging to approach from a BCG angle.

Time Sensitivity - This measures the game’s ability to be started and stopped frequently at relatively small (e.g. 30 minute) intervals. The best games in this category offer meaningful fulfillment even in short play times, whereas games that require two-hour sessions to make meaningful progress score low in this category. 

Duration - This measures the overall length of the game to complete casually on a first playthrough. While long durations don’t necessarily mean a bad game, some players may opt to steer clear of games requiring too much of a time commitment.

Family Applicability - This measures the applicability of the game to family gaming sessions, particularly with younger children or non-gamers. A full “Family Friendly” rating means that everyone will find some fun in the game, whereas “BCG Only” is more likely to be enjoyed only by gamers themselves.

Chris
 

BCG Reviews - A Different Kind of Perspective

When we first started Business Casual Gamers, we had no intention of making this a “review” channel. There are plenty of places to get your reviews (Easy Allies, Kotaku, Happy Console Gamer are good places to start) if you’re interested in whether a game is actually good. This thought worked well for the first couple years of our show. Then, we realized something.

A large part of the “BCG” mindset that we continue to drive with the show and its related content focuses on games from a decidedly different perspective: is it good for a Business Casual Gamer? Aaron and I have consistently mentioned that the characteristic of “good” for a BCG isn’t necessarily the 10,000+ hours of gameplay that you see in the marketing for a game. Instead, it’s more focused on shorter-term return on time investment, playability in small chunks of time, and other such considerations.

When revamping the podcast content in 2018, we tried to refine the content to just one topic, delivered a bit shorter than previous episodes. While I know we’re guilty of not necessarily shortening the podcast even in the light of the new changes, we did decide to pull the Game Assignments segment in order to shorten the episodes. The problem, as it turned out, was that we’d end up short-changing our discussions on the game purely in an attempt to shorten the show. We--and from what we’ve heard, you--have missed some of the review-like discussions on the podcast.

So, in an attempt to inject that type of content back into the BCG offering, we’re going to start putting out some blogs on this site that give the “BCG” review on games, hardware, and other related gaming items. Keep in mind that this isn’t a normal review, though: we’ll most likely be providing commentary to the games based on a short playtime (in the BCG world, who has the time to quickly finish games?). If you want purely thorough reviews, please check those out elsewhere. That said, Aaron and I will try our best to give you the full BCG perspective--all with our own personal slant. We hope you find it valuable.

As an aside, we’re going to start including links to products that we discuss in our reviews. If you’re interested in those products, we’d love for you to use those links, as they directly help us 1) acquire more content to review, and 2) help us support the show through software licenses and audio/video equipment. As it turns out, this kind of production indeed costs a bit to keep rolling.

Thanks!
Chris