Yakuza 6: The Song of Life | Review

Posted on April 23, 2018 by Broken Joysticks

“You can rescue homeless cats for a cat café. 10/10”


Written By: Jeb Wrench

I have been informed by my editor  that I need to provide more information than just that for this review. 

Editors Note: Cats will always be welcome here on Broken Joysticks. 

That is a fairly reasonable request, so what’s all this about Yakuza 6 then? Yakuza 6 is, naturally, the seventh numbered edition of Sega’s Yakuza series (if you’re confused as to why this is the seventh entry, there is also a prequel known as Yukaza 0), a series that has managed to successfully straddle the thin line between grittiness and extravagance. The series is equally comfortable having its characters sipping whisky in smoky bars talking about crimes as it is having them sing karaoke or take their hand at a game or two of Puyo-Puyo. 

A word of warning is required, though. Yakuza 6 is extremely violent, and as such there are very vicious acts of violence and bloodshed on display as you play. As well, the game is, like its predecessors, not great at depicting women. Often women in the game fall victim to the ever-popular fridging trope, and there are inferences to sexual violence and harassment towards women as you progress through the storyline. If these sorts of things turn you away for whatever reason, it is probably for the best you avoid Yakuza 6. 

Once again in the well-worn suit of Kiryu Kazuma, the game is set in Tokyo’s Kamurocho district, a bustling area full of bright lights, opportunities, and crimes. Lots of crimes. Fresh out of prison, it is 2016 and Kiryu is looking to get back to his now civilian life running his orphanage in Okinawa, looking after the kids he’s been raising since getting out of the Yakuza. 

This, of course, does not go entirely as planned, as one of the girls he’s raised, Haruka Sawamura, has gone missing after retiring as an Idol. This is what leads him once again into Kamurocho, as what few leads he has lead him there. Shortly after arriving, Haruka is involved in a hit and run, and falls into a coma leaving Kiryu with more questions, and to his great surprise, a baby. 

Naturally, this begins a larger chain of events that drags Kiryu through layers of betrayal, deception, misdirection, and conspiracy as he tries to find out if Haruka’s accident was really an accident as well as who the father of baby Haruto really is. Thus, he finds himself in the small shipbuilding town of Onomichi in Hiroshima. From there, he gets dragged further and further into the layers of conspiracy, travelling back and forth between the two locales looking for the truth. 

Kiryu is versed in several useful skills to do his truth-seeking, all of them involving liberal applications of violence. Thugs, goons, and yakuza alike all get to experience firsthand why “The Dragon of Dojima” has long been such a legendary figure. Combat is integral to the Yakuza 6 experience, and it is its strongest aspect. 

Strikes are quick and powerful, grapples and throws are effective crowd-control moves, and as always there are a lot of environmental moves and weapons to use in the heat of a scrap. While some, like the fruit crate, seem ineffective, the sheer brutality of objects like the sledgehammer, or breaking someone’s arm by countering their swing of a crowbar make up for that. And no matter how many times I execute the move, busting out an ushigoroshi on one mook to drop them on another is highly satisfying. 

Being a Yakuza game, you would expect lots of side content in The Song of Life, and it does not disappoint. Minigames are everywhere in both locales, letting you play various Sega arcade games like the aforementioned Puyo-Puyo, Virtua Fighter 5, and Fantasy Zone amongst others, try your hand shooting darts or batting balls, or, well, uh, chatting with virtual hostesses online. These minigames give you rewards primarily in the form of experience, which you can spend to upgrade Kiryu’s stats or learn new abilities. 

[ Onward To Page 2 of our Yakuza 6: The Song of Life Review ]

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Shelter Generations arrives on the Nintendo Switch tomorrow

Posted on April 11, 2018 by Broken Joysticks

Shelter Generations arrives on the Nintendo Switch eShop on April 12th.

Being released by Circle Entertainment, this console-exclusive collection includes Shelter 2 + Mountains DLC, Paws: A Shelter 2 Game, soundtracks for both games, and two ‘living books’.

Shelter Generations will arrive in the Nintendo eShop for $17.99 USD in week one and then $19.99 USD after that.


GDC 18: Hands On With Little Dragon Cafe

Posted on April 11, 2018 by Broken Joysticks

Written By: Victoria Rose

Last month at the Game Developers’ Conference, we at Broken Joysticks got the opportunity to play an in-development demo of Little Dragon Café, the new game headed up by Harvest Moon creator Yasuhiro Wada and his new studio, Toybox. The game borrows the relaxing Life Simulation gameplay of its creator’s previous works, but adds several modern twists to the formula to keep things fresh. 

One of the things that sets Life Simulator games apart from other contemporaries in the Simulation or RPG genres is the pacing and tension of the core gameplay loop. Instead of the complex resource management of the former or tense combat systems of the latter, Life Sims tend to gravitate towards a more meditative process of repetition of simple tasks to reach long-term goals. The player is given less to worry about on an immediate basis compared to a full-on Strategy game. Little Dragon Café looks to be leaning more towards this pure Simulation genre than its Harvest Moon predecessors by giving players many more factors to manage, but intends to keep the core mechanics of its Life Simulator roots. 

Swapping out the farming gameplay of Harvest Moon for finance, gathering, and cooking mechanics, Little Dragon Café puts the focus more on managing a business than gardening. Players are expected to keep kitchens stocked, dishes made and on hand, and employees in line to succeed. This leads to a more fluid gameplay loop wherein players will have to make more careful decisions about how they spend each in-game day. Going on expeditions for ingredients with your titular dragon buddy is obligatory, but managing inventory during them brings to mind contemporary game Slime Rancher more than other Harvest Moon games. Players must act quickly and conservatively to maximize output during expeditions, adding that aforementioned tension to the mix. 

Prototype Plush Dragon From The Games’ Special Edition

Of course, this is all in service of the café itself, where the business management aspects come into play. Players must cook all dishes served in the restaurant, look after customers, make sure employees are happy, and be the caretaker for your dragon. Cooking is done by a simple and short rhythm mini-game, and customer interaction is handled in a similar manner as NPC interaction in Harvest Moon. The greater amount of tasks to do in Little Dragon Café adds to the hectic nature, and pushes the game more towards a pure Simulation experience. 

Little Dragon Café has loads of potential and a striking, colored pencil shader aesthetic. Even in its early state, it is clear to see how this game can potentially find its niche between its two source genres while providing something truly different from its predecessors. This is one to keep an eye on. 


Best Games We Played Runner-Up: Persona 5

Posted on January 3, 2018 by Broken Joysticks

Article By: Victoria Rose

This past year saw a lot of major releases in quick succession. From the scary corridors of Resident Evil 7 this past February, or the whirlwind of the Nintendo Switch launch in March or the constant hype rush of new trailers and news that is E3 – there was a lot to be excited about. Wedged in-between all of this was Atlus’ long awaited JRPG sequel, Persona 5, debuting nearly 3 years after its initial Winter 2014 target date. Tori Rose takes a look back at one of Atlus’ big releases and recounts what worked and didn’t work in this high school simulator / monster battling JRPG mash-up.

2017 was the year in which even our power fantasies came with inextricable baggage. Much like its predecessors, Persona 5 was designed from the ground up to be a power fantasy for its teenage audience. Its central premise of forcing a change of heart onto others by your own hand is a potent one indeed, and would have been more than compelling enough on its own, but Persona 5 has a very different spirit than its predecessors.

The game masterfully paints you and your group of friends as outcasts, thieves, and criminals of all sorts. It does everything in its power to make the player feel like the world does not appreciate them and is wrongly turned against them, and such is the justification for their actions. And who comprises this band of outcasts? Perhaps those who actually do face discrimination in Japanese society, such as queer people, those not of Japanese descent, or perhaps differently-abled people? No, of course not – this is Atlus, so the protagonists are on average all releatively-privileged heterosexual, cisgender Japanese youth. You may even start to realize that the narrative constructed around the game’s Phantom Thieves is suspiciously similar to the one used by the very oppressors of those aforementioned marginalized groups. Yet in spite of all that… there’s something about Persona 5 that makes it hard to ignore just how well it succeeds at selling that fantasy. Even labouring under all those criticisms, the game still makes its central premise deliciously tantalizing, especially in a year in which the desire to change the hearts of the evil and powerful is more desirable than ever.

Persona 5 is still a masterwork of JRPG design, with a mechanics sets that interweave in countless interesting ways to create an core macro-level gameplay loop that is deep, varied, and downright addictive. And how appropriate it is to describe this game as a drug – pulling you in with its intoxicating power fantasy, latching onto you with its mechanics of encouraging endless experimentation, and always having you coming back to get that sweet drip-feed of well-crafted narrative nectar. Persona 5 is a masterpiece, but in 2017, we can no longer ignore the problems in the media we consume.


The Best Games We Played 2017: A Hat In Time

Posted on December 28, 2017 by Broken Joysticks

Contributor Victoria Rose shares her thoughts on the best game she played this year – A Hat In Time. Over the next week, into early 2017, our editors will be sharing their picks for the best game they played this year. They’ll also be sharing some of their choices for runner-up. “The Best Games We Played 2017” is a reflection of the year that was in interactive entertainment for our editors and contributors. To be eligible for mention in TBGWP 2017 a title need not be released this year, our editors and contributors simply must have played it.

2017 was the year in which we all desperately needed a break that we never got. Something to take our minds off of the awfulness of the world around us and remind us what in life makes us happy. A Hat in Time is the closest thing that I got to that break in 2017, but even it couldn’t escape getting marred by scandal. On its own merits, A Hat in Time is a joyous, adorable, expertly-designed 3D platforming treasure that has been polished to a mirror shine, and a game which can confidently stand alongside titans of its genre. I honestly cannot remember the last time I had this much fun with a platformer. Each of the game’s worlds is fleshed out with vibrant, memorable characters and unique level designs. The locomotion controls are more logical and approachable than that of its contemporary Super Mario Odyssey while offering just as much depth to its platforming. The latter may be a more professionally-made game with far more content and development talent, but it simply cannot match the care put into each level and world of A Hat in Time. I adore every moment of this game, and we are richer for its existence.

However, it would not be 2017 without a bad apple spoiling even the sweetest of bunches. It is not responsible nor ethical to discuss A Hat in Time without condemning the actions of project lead Jonas Kaerlav. Stealing artists’ work while creating whole websites to defame and silence them, firing members of the team for petty and personal reasons, and refusing to remove vocal white supremacist Jon Jafari as a voice actor in the game, even after Playtonic Games did the right thing and removed him from their own game’s voice actor lineup. This man has a rap sheet a mile long, and it is impossible not to bring up when discussing the game. The fact that A Hat in Time is one of the best platformers of all time with level and input design unmatched amongst its peers does not matter when those same designer associates with Nazi sympathizers and refuses to pay artists. Real lives are affected here, and it is irresponsible to ignore that. And that is a damn shame because A Hat in Time truly is a masterpiece. It’s undoubtedly my favorite game of the year, and I want to play through the game a dozen more times right away. I want to cosplay Hat Kid. I want to draw fanart. I want to design my own games inspired by this. I WANT to love this game. But sometimes life is more complicated than that. Sometimes you have to accept that even the things you love bear a tragic hamartia. Sometimes, life can just be one nasty, foul 2017.


Yakuza Kiwami | Review

Posted on August 30, 2017 by Broken Joysticks

Game Reviewed By: John Bridgman

“Kiwami means extreme!” the tutorial explains, and that’s a good way, to sum up Yakuza Kiwami, the remake of Sega’s first entry in its open-world Yakuza series. It keeps the series’ proud tradition of bombastic martial arts combat, gritty organized crime drama, and ridiculous diversions.

An immediate warning to prospective players is in order – Yakuza Kiwami has depictions of violence and aggressive harassment of women, both implied and on-screen, so keep that in mind before playing if you are affected by such things. As well, there are displays of intense gore and mutilation which can be upsetting.

Our protagonist is Kiryu Kazama, who is fresh out of prison after taking the fall for the murder of the Patriarch of the Dojima family. Paroled after ten years of model inmatehood, he returns to Kamurocho and finds himself pulled into a wildly changed Yakuza. Power struggles have broken out among the remaining Yakuza families, and caught up in the middle of it all is his childhood friend Nishkiyama who is now a family Patriarch himself, having gained a ruthless ambition in the wake of Kiryu taking the rap for his crimes.

With these pieces as a setting, Kiryu is let loose to discover the plots surrounding his loved ones, in the only way he knows how – violence. And Kiryu is extremely gifted at the liberal application of violence. He punches, kicks, stomps, throws, swings blades, and smashes thugs with bicycles and more throughout the city. Encounters crop up through the city as you run around, including the ever-looming specter of Kiryu’s rival, Goro Majima.

Majima Everywhere is one of the most fun parts of the game. He can pop up anywhere in the city with a sing-song “Kiryu-chaaan”, ready to challenge his stoic rival and test to see if Kiryu’s skills have grown to match his reputation as the Dragon of Dojima. These fights unlock Kiryu’s skills in his Dragon style, so in addition to normal leveling up, to truly master being Kiryu Kazama, you must engage with Majima.

The game hits some lulls when the narrative shrinks things down and removes the degree of openness the game has. Yakuza games shine when something ludicrous is happening on-screen, and searching for an item on the pavement isn’t particularly interesting, especially without the prospect of fighting anyone for a while. These segments aren’t difficult but if you have trouble finding what’s needed it really breaks the flow of the game.

When it’s open though you really get to experience the variety that Yakuza games have come to be known for. While traveling from plot to plot, you will find yourself distracted by fights, games, fights, sidequests, fights, bars, restaurants, and fights. Head to a bar and shoot some darts, have a drink, then make your way to karaoke – all of which will net you experience points and thus lead to improving Kiryu’s skills.

There is a very strange minigame I feel I have to discuss. In your travels, you will begin to find trading cards with pictures of ladies in swimsuits and bug hats. These you can then use to have weird rock-paper-scissors matches, complete with 3D modeled and animated wrestling holds between the scantily-clad women in an arena surrounded by bugs. It’s absolutely bizarre.

Combat though – oh the combat is where Yakuza Kiwami excels. Kiryu has an enormous variety of moves and combos to perform, which only gets more involved as you level up his skills. There are four styles to switch between, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, and knowing when to use which and when to switch is key to major fights. The Rush style is about fast combos and dodging rapidly, the Brawler style is the balanced option, and the Beast style is tanky and has an emphasis on breaking nearby objects over your opponents. The fourth style is Kiryu’s Dragon Style, which features unique and powerful abilities, but can only be trained by fighting against Majima.

Yakuza Kiwami is a game that manages to balance its bombastic, ridiculous, and grim elements very well. It can seamlessly carry you from winning dolls out of a crane game for a businessman to give to his… “daughter”, to kicking a road cone and knocking out a group of thugs, to smashing an assassin’s face against a wall with your fist in a span of minutes. It is extremely violent, extremely silly, extremely bizarre, and extremely fun if you can get past the uncomfortable elements. “Kiwami means extreme!” indeed.

Yauza Kiwami’s publisher SEGA USA provided us with a review code for our consideration.


Astervoid 2000 | Review

Posted on July 18, 2017 by Broken Joysticks

Guest Review By: Azzuen O’Connor

Astervoid 2000 is a totally awesome and difficult throwback to the old days of arcade cabinet multiplayer space shoot em ups. It wouldn’t be unfair if your mind went straight to Bizarre Creations (RIP) 2005 smash hit, Geometry Wars or the 1980s Asteroid games that inspired it after seeing Astervoid 2000 in action.

Right off the bat, I want to say this game has a really awesome soundtrack that sticks to the genre’s roots of being sort of remixed electronic soundtracks reminiscent of the golden days of video arcades during the 80s and 90s. The soundtrack still manages to provide a fresh coat of paint for a more grown up audience the game encourages you right from the get-go to gather some friends up and play this on your big screen tv while having fun. I do love what the developers did with their licensed music – they put the name of the artist and track at the beginning of a stage. I think that not only shows respect for the work the band or individual put into making that track, it also helps spread recognition for their artists and even can help out both the artists and the players connect through channels that aren’t Astervoid 2000.

The movement of your little fighter of your choice is definitely more designed for a game controller than a keyboard and mouse but it is pretty responsive all in all. I do however have a few complaints about the controls- while they are definitely responsive they can also feel too loose as if the slightest tap may send your little space ship hurtling into an asteroid, a mine, an enemy ship. While fun and entertaining and giving you the choice of your little-pixelated ship (which may I add reminds me A LOT of an old flash game I used to play. Gods help me if I remember the name of it) there’s not much real long term gameplay in this title.

One thing I do love and did make me smile and keeps having me come back for “one more round” is the added benefit of a global leaderboard fight to get the high score and see your name up there with others who have fought so hard to get where you are, who may have worn down the analogue sticks on their controllers or battled through carpel tunnel and no sleep to get where you are now (

As much as I love to peel back the layers upon layers of modern videogames, and take a look at its roots and the origins of how the genre started – I can’t really say much that everyone else has already stated. Astervoid 2000 sure does owe itself to some of the very first videogames ever developed and this long lasting influence shows. It is fast-paced, easy to pick up and to learn and still will keep you coming back for more. I do also love how the game offers about 8 difficult but worthwhile achievements to get. In closing, this game is a game that anyone of any age can pick up, play and enjoy. I’m not sure if this could help but if anyone out there can use a joystick to play it let me know if the controls feel a bit tighter as I feel a joystick may offer tighter more precise control than what a PC enabled controller may offer.

A copy of Astervoids2000 was provided by the developer for our consideration.


“Gamers Are Revolting” – Hover: Revolt of Gamers | Review

Posted on June 2, 2017 by Broken Joysticks

So Hover: Revolt of Gamers is a game Kickstarted in 2014 (remember this) inspired by Jet Set Radio and Mirror’s Edge. While I have zero experience playing the evergreen classic of JSR, I have a lot of respect for the original Mirror’s Edge and a bit of it for its… requel.

Hover starts us off by waking us up in our customizable avatar from a Cloning Vat, and takes us through a short tutorial that gives us the basic controls in a small controlled environment before unleashing us out in the world of Trash Haven, where the “resistance” is led by… gamers. Yup. Because laws have made video games official contraband. Seriously.

You can find collectibles (like the “Gamegirl” handhelds) or destroy some “anti-leisure propaganda”. The game progresses both to new areas and through whatever story may actually be here through Missions, which are the typical checkpoint-relay variety, or one with the twist of throwing your delivery package “Gameball” at a wall magnet. Added into the mix is the ability to design your own missions for your friends or strangers to play through as well.

Its level design is very cluttered. There are jump-pads that aren’t lined up with anything so you overshoot, there are massive vertical climbs without actually giving you decent pathing to do so. The climbing over terrain itself is quite frustrating, at times I will line up a jump and it’s a coin flip on whether my character will try to climb over the ledge I land on, or instead position to wall jump off of it for no reason (one time I even wall jumped off of a slime waterfall?). These little mishaps will leave you tumbling down, and you either have to spend several minutes trying to climb back up to where you were, or burn through your suit’s “rewind” power (less Braid, and more Overwatch’s Tracer),

For a first/third person platformer that’s all about parkour and jumping, it feels very haphazardly thrown together in that regard and uses the Rewind to try and excuse its own poor level design with zero regards for consistency or fluidity of motion.

It seems to be more trying to be in your face about “We’re here and we’re gamers” over actually presenting a good product, and considering that it was crowdfunded in 2014 over folks “taking your games away”, it feels very much like at least one of its members was part of the culture that created that other “gamers revolt” in 2014. And really, we don’t need any more of that.

Hover: Revolt of Gamers developer provided Brokenjoysticks.net a code for the game for our consideration & Impressions


Opinion: Bethesda Dropped The Ball When It Comes To Fallout 4

Posted on April 23, 2017 by Broken Joysticks

Fallout 4 Nuke

Guest Editorial By: Azzuen O’Connor

Back in the winter of 2015 Bethesda released their sprawling open world RPG, Fallout 4 to critical and commercial success. Azzuen O’Connor discovered the series in the past couple of years and after playing through the likes of Obsidian’s Fallout: New Vegas and catching up on Bethesda’s latest has quite a few critiques about the game. Read on to find out about her journey through the world of Fallout and how the removal of item repair, some narrative flaws and an overabundance of power armor show just how far Bethesda dropped the ball with Fallout 4.

War, War Never Changes

When I first heard Ron Perlman speak these words when booting up Fallout: New Vegas on my Partner’s Xbox 360 I was hooked. Yes, the voice acting for Mister House was bad. But to be fair this was one of my first times trying out a AAA game title in a very long time. And you know what? I LOVED IT. The characters were memorable and you had a clear final objective – find out who shot you, get revenge on the man in the checkered suit and explore your own story along the way.

(Image source Youtube.com)

Now, this may seem odd, but I’ve always enjoyed large scale games that have featured weapon durability – allowing you to repair and maintain your weapons, armor, and equipment. It greatly adds to Fallout’s sense of immersion, allowing me to stay in the game’s world. Yes, I know I’m playing on my couch in my apartment, but still, just like in real life your weapons won’t always be in perfect condition all day every day. You need to clean them, fix them and maintain them.

Hyped To Finally Explore The Wastes On My Own PC

Now like many Fallout fans and my friends I was HYPED for Fallout 4. I thought this was going to be the best damn game out there. Now I did buy the game for myself eventually on the advice of my brother that Amazon was having a New Year’s sale.

I was so excited to start to play it but soon after opening the package, I found out that the little card that came with the disc was a retail key for steam. I nearly cried at the mandatory 40GB install. This was the first time in my 26 years of living I saw a Triple-A game being maxed out on a PC I owned, not on loan, not “borrowing a friend’s pc for a bit. “No, I owned it this was my baby to do with as I please.” I booted it up and was amazed that MY PC could run Fallout on ultra – albeit slightly disappointed they didn’t bring back Ron Perlman for the voiceover for the iconic introductions that I had grown to love since discovering the Fallout series.

Fallout 4 Modding

Modding weapons in Fallout 4 just like you can mod your own PC!  (Image credit: Youtube.com)

I started my adventure and was mildly shocked you started off in a pre- war setting. No worries after a quick Skype call with a friend and some advice from my boyfriend I worked out my stat points. Later on in the story, after I ‘woke up’ from cryosleep and got my first weapon (I think I got the baton first then the good old trusty 10mm), it was time to begin exploring the world, which would be made ever more interesting with no official governing body controlling the post-apocalyptic United States.  I figured “meh explore some chat with people loot kill etc.” My first encounter involved a few really nasty bugs (the software kind, not radroaches) – some floor tiles weren’t there, causing me to get stuck in odd areas a few times. But still, I made it into my old town where I met good old Codsworth. After some conversation with the robotic butler, I was told: “go forth and find the Minute Men”.

Who’s a good boy? Who’s a good boy? (Image credit: Youtube.com)

I also first met the most iconic dog in recent memory, Dogmeat. Now I must say I do enjoy the fact that Dogmeat is not just a silly looking face, he can attack and he can carry stuff. Awesome! So, I go forth and find the Minutemen where they’re being attacked by raiders, standard RPG cannon fodder. Kill them rescue the good guys be the hero you know the drill by now. So afterwards I find out we’re stuck here because of one big mean and ugly Deathclaw. “Okay” I thought to myself “this is just going to be one big ugly dude kill him but find out he’s very nerfed you just started, after all, Bethesda usually doesn’t throw you to the wolves so fast.” NO you get power armor, from the get go? This is odd… I thought in most previous iterations of Fallout you worked your ass off to just get a glorified suit of medieval plate armor, maybe they’re giving you the old “here have this taste of power for mere moments before we whisk it away from you.” Nope, that was yours to keep and do your thing with.

How Far Did They Drop The Ball?

Previous Fallout games encouraged you to explore, to do your own thing and to try different types of character builds. The issue was, through, in my eyes, Fallout 4 HEVELY encouraged you to go with the power armor – even so far as providing you a functional power armor set early in the campaign. Another glaring issue is that the main campaign revolves around your character’s quest to save Shawn, your kid. But yet you didn’t really develop a connection with him. You saw him for maybe at most two minutes in the pre-war introduction sequence.

This is when I asked myself: “But why do I need to save Shaun?”

To which the game’s narrative responds:  “Well, he’s your kid.”

Finally, I ask myself (and by extension the game): “Kay. But I didn’t really know him, shouldn’t I focus more on finding out who killed my wife?”

I get where they were going with all of this, Bethesda wants the narrative to appeal to your parental instincts to save your child. Your child is the future, in contrast, your wife is dead, game over, period end of statement.

So many power armor suits (Image source gosunoob.com)

Coming back to the power armor there are more suits of power armor that are readily found throughout the Wastes. This kind of pushes your play-style towards power armor rather than the number of other options available. In previous entries I liked having to repair my items, needing to maintain them in the best possible condition, to make them as effective as possible. In my opinion, Bethesda focused more on making Fallout 4 an FPS-RPG (First Person Shooter Role Playing Game) or to be more specific, an FPS with RPG-like elements. They seemed to want you to focus more on the main quest to find Shaun, to be amazed at the shiny power armor and let me not forget to mention the settlement system where you build up your various bases and maintain them. With settlements, you need to populate them with NPC characters whose only purpose is to be maintained and possibly give you the odd uncommon item.

Fallout 4 Perk Screen

Pick your favorite perk in Fallout 4’s Perk Screen (Image source: Youtube.com)

I mean sure all of this can get annoying at times, but when the developers remove key mechanics from the game at start; then modders step in and fix things up. Why did we all start to play video games? Just to have fun and get the best possible score? Or to get that one super rare item before any of your other friends did?  Was it to feel a deep sense of immersion in impossible worlds? So, how did Bethesda drop the ball on Fallout 4? A faltering narrative that focuses on the wrong major hook, giving players the power armor too soon,  forgettable settlements system and the removal of the durability system show that Bethesda dropped the ball pretty far on Fallout 4.


GDC17: GameMaker Studios 2.0 Takes On Industry Titans

Posted on March 12, 2017 by Broken Joysticks

Article By: Tori Dominowski

Long since a staple of the ready-made game engine marketplace, YoYo Games’ GameMaker has reinvented itself in recent years after coming under its new ownership. Their recent GameMaker Studio suite got attention by overhauling nearly every piece of the software, turning it from a designer’s prototype plaything into a game engine that could stand on its own. Now, after building up its community and figuring out its development strategy going forward, YoYo Games has announced the second iteration of the remade Studio. We at Broken Joysticks had the chance to sit down with some representatives from YoYo during the Game Developers’ Conference to take a look at an early build of Studio 2 and ask some questions about its new feature set.

We were shown a general overview of the new suite, and ran through some of the additions made since the last revision. The most notable shift was in the supported programming languages, with traditional languages such as C++ and Javascript now being supported alongside the proprietary GML language that the engine originally used. Yoyo Games stated that their intent with this was to distance themselves from the perception of being a walled garden environment and a prototype-only engine. Asked about whether older (Pre-Studio) versions of GML would still be supported in Studio 2, and was told that they would be supported, but are not under active development, and are considered to be legacy code.

However, GML has been given a facelift in modern times, and it seems to be paying dividends – the new optional graphical interface introduced in the prior revision has received some major additions in Studio 2. For one, code now supports live editing previews, allowing for feature changes without having to recompile the game. We asked about their approach in creating the graphical language, particularly with regards to how they intend to differentiate themselves from competitors such as Unreal Engine 4’s Blueprint language. The representative we spoke with stated that he believed Blueprint to hide too much from the user, and that it tried to be a full scripting replacement, whereas Game Maker’s new system was created with the intention of being a bridge between learning to code and text-based scripting.

The graphical code editor that accompanies GML now includes a full in-engine sprite editor/animator, as well as integration with the Spine sprite animator. The live preview feature also made it over here, allowing users to “draw” over the sprite as it is playing through its animation to allow for easier changes to a whole animation set.

GameMaker’s structural changes include a new page tab system, similar to the layout of most modern IDEs, but the unified function approach of Game Maker allows for better organizing things that would require multiple different programs otherwise, keeping the graphical editor, level editor, and code windows all in the same tabbed interface. YoYo Games also boasted of several technical upgrades, such as GML’s apparent 50% decrease in compile times, DirectX11 support, native Box2D physics integration (As well as a custom solution for water physics), a custom pre-built networking system, archetypal level inheritance, as well as support for in-app purchases and advertisements. While this may not sound exciting to the uninitiated, these are indeed some welcome additions to developers.

One of the most surprising additions to the original Studio was the variety of platforms that games could be exported to, including several niche platforms, making it an attractive option for independent developers who want to support lots of platforms. While Studio 2  does support a few new platforms such as Microsoft’s new Universal Windows Platform and Android TV, several of said niche platforms such as the PlayStation Vita, Samsung’s Tizen OS, and Windows Phone 8 have been removed. When asked about this, YoYo Games stated it was primarily due to developer inactivity, and that said platforms will still be supported in Studio 1.x, but not in any new versions. They did state that MacOS was now a supported platform on which to run the editor itself, however, where it was Windows-exclusive in the past.

Finally, when asked about potential changes to their monetization model for GameMaker, YoYo Games stated that they have no immediate plans to change the current model for the engine which requires a purchase up front for the engine and once again for exporting the final game. They did state that they are toying with the idea of adding certain high-level features as extras in a subscription service later down the line, but that there are no plans underway as of now. As for said initial purchase, Studio 2 will be a separate purchase from the prior version, although existing users will be offered a 40-50% discount on the new version.

These look to be exciting times for the GameMaker faithful as the engine continues to blossom far beyond its roots as a simple experiment program into something that can be a legitimate rival to industry titans such as Unity and Unreal Engine.


GDC17: Indies Rule the House at Microsoft’s ID@Xbox Event

Posted on March 12, 2017 by Broken Joysticks

Article Written By: Tori Dominowski

The Game Developers’ Conference lets independent game makers to show off their projects in a professional setting, while giving platform holders and publishers the chance to show off their lineup to budding talent. Amongst the sea of VR and game service companies, indies got their chance to shine at a few events at the show – in particular, Microsoft’s ID@Xbox showcase.

Held at a private loft in downtown San Francisco, the event gave us a look at upcoming indie games to grace Windows 10 and the Xbox One. Among these, some of the standouts included Ooblets, the adorable life sim/role-playing game developed by Glumberland, Church of Darkness, a top-down stealth game by Paranoid Productions that tasks the player with infiltrating a cult compound, and Etherborn, a dreamlike gravity-bending puzzle platformer by studio Altered Matter.

The developers behind Ooblets stated in our interview that they wished to make a game which combines the most compelling elements of Harvest Moon and Pokémon into a single experience, marrying the meditative slow-life farming of the former with the collection and companionship of the latter. The game is designed to evoke the same soft, safe, endearing, and  feminine aesthetic that both series pride themselves in, touting a visual aesthetic very much in line with modern cartoon style trends. Ooblets is setting out to be the alternative to both series that emphasizes the strengths of both that often get ignored.

Church of Darkness, by contrast, takes a much darker and more tense turn into the stealth genre. The player must infiltrate a religious cult’s South American compound in the 1970s and rescue their sibling who has left home to join them. The game uses a top-down perspective to allow the player as much visual information as possible without using standard stealth conventions such as a radar. The setting alone does a great job of establishing unfamiliarity and unease in the player, something well-suited to a stealth game. Plus, the wealth of ways with which the player can interact with the environment allow for some rather creative puzzle solutions, leaving the player feeling unrestricted in ways other stealth games do not.

Finally, the last standout was Etherborn, a game that prides itself on its eerie, misty, dreamlike visual aesthetic, as well as using it to support its gravity-twisting movement mechanics. In the game, the player can move up walls when approaching them with a ramp. Manipulating the gravitational standards of whatever polarity to which they are currently oriented is the key to the game’s puzzles. Falling down holes in the ceiling and establishing a sense of continuity to abstract spaces are necessary in the demo’s later levels, and make Etherborn out to be a gorgeous-looking standout of the puzzle platformer genre.

Microsoft’s Xbox One still has a lot to prove if it wants to keep up with the current indie clout of Sony’s Vita and PlayStation 4, but it is putting up a very compelling show of confidence with this show. Giving developers cheaper access to development tools, cross-platform certification through the Windows Store, cheaper certification fees, and big industry-facing events such as this one are a good sign that Microsoft still believes in the importance of independent development for its platforms.


Yakuza 0 Review

Posted on January 23, 2017 by Broken Joysticks

Game Reviewed By: John Bridgman

Evaluating an installment of an established franchise offers particular challenges. Do you look at it in a vacuum, or as a part of the bigger picture? Should a title stand on its own, or work necessarily with the rest of the series? There is no simple answer to these questions. Yakuza 0, releasing Tuesday, January 24th, is the prequel to Sega’s long-running Yakuza series, and overall a great game in its own right.

Taking place in Japan during the real estate boom of the 80s, Yakuza 0 tells the story of the series’ main protagonist Kiryu Kazama and his recurring rival Goro Majima. Much younger and less wise to the world than we are accustomed to seeing, these two become involved in the machinations of the Tojo family of Yakuza. Their naiveté leads them deep into conflict with their objectives and personal moralities as they progress in the underworlds of their respective districts.

Kiryu’s chapters take place in the Kamurocho District, a tightly-packed neon paradise of excesses. Here, he attempts to discover who framed him for a murder of a man who Kiryu shook down for loan payment. As he progresses he gets involved with a shady real estate company and runs a collection of businesses in the District, assigning managers and collecting money from them while continuing his search.

Majima, meanwhile, is a nightclub manager in Sotenbori, and he is trying to get back into the Yakuza after being banished for a failure to follow orders. Managing involves tasks such as dealing with unruly patrons (without laying hand on them, in fact), and hiring new hostesses to entertain the clientele. These segments, in all honesty, can be a little uncomfortable and I found myself not really looking forward to them.

Which is unfortunate, as Majima’s chapters contain some of my favourite side activities in the game. The crafting system is odd and feels really forced, but it’s connected to an agent dispatch mechanic similar to Final Fantasy Tactics or Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, and I couldn’t help but get really involved with trying to see what could happen to my agents as I sent them around the world to look for wood, iron, and umbrellas.

The side content is where the game mostly shines, with hundreds of side stories to go through, and oh so many minigames. There are multiple variants of pool alone, and these are satisfying and thorough enough to sink time into without playing the rest of the game. Darts, bowling, Space Harrier – there are dozens of games you can play for hours. These games also lead to side stories of their own (the dancing minigame in particular features several stories and dance battles to take part in) and before long you risk losing sight of the plot in favour of more side content.

That is not to say the main story is not engaging. Indeed, it goes down intriguing paths and is full of interesting characters, along with a heavier focus on the incredibly fun combat the series is known for. Most plot segments are ways to setup long stretches of beating people up, which is by no means a complaint. The combo-based combat system focuses on using multiple fighting styles and environmental weapons to take down waves of enemies in a delightfully over the top martial arts movie fashion. The first time you break a motorcycle over an adversary, you will really appreciate the depth of the combat.

Narratively, however, the game stumbles in a few ways. Pacing can be awkward, as some plot segments involve going from point to point on the map for cutscenes, or visiting several shops to purchase specific items for use in a fetch quest. Since there are at least encounters to be had as you explore, the annoyance is offset by the opportunity to punch people in the face for copious amounts of cash. Worse than that, is how often the game relies on huge exposition dumps. You will find yourself having drinks with an NPC, and there you will get a plethora of character background and motivation handed to you in classic “As you Know” style.

Cutscenes are a genuinely mixed bag, as they are presented in several different ways. Some of them are pre-rendered scenes, some in-engine, and others still are presented in a motion-comic style. These will be mixed together within the same cutscene segment, and it can be rather jarring, but effective when pulled off seamlessly. Most of the time, these are just jarring.

The game is a visual treat, with bright neon signage everywhere, and excellent attention to detail. Kamurocho has enough filth in its alleys and side streets to really drive home how much of a façade the neon glow really is, and the characters are highly expressive in their animations, even if most of their emotions range from anger to violence. The animations are great, which leads to some outright brutal moments in combat – Majima in particular has some really satisfying bat manoeuvres.

In addition to looking good, it sounds great. This is of course most evident in the dancing and karaoke minigames, which are made fun through the catchy pop tunes. The soundtrack features a variety of musical styles, befitting the 80s setting, including some phenomenal generic rock for the intro cinematic. The sound design also enhances the combat, with both satisfying crunches and cracks as you administer liberal applications of violence to your foes, and over the top sound effects as you power up and switch styles.

It is important to know that Yakuza 0 does deal with some difficult and uncomfortable content. The way hostesses are treated in the nightclubs could definitely be off-putting or upsetting, going from verbal abuse to inappropriate touching. In addition, there are discussions and depictions of torture, including the before and after of an eye removal. The actual removal is offscreen, as is the removal of a finger from a major NPC early on. Also worth noting, some of the side stories discuss and threaten the exploitation of sex workers and minors (sometimes both).

Yakuza 0 is an excellent game that treads uncomfortable water. It carries itself well overall, though the bombastic presentation can be at odds with some of the upsetting aspects. If you are able and willing to see these depictions and allusions in a game then there’s a lot of entertainment to be had. When the game focuses on over the top martial arts and lets its goofy side shine is when it’s at its best. Just be prepared for some serious tonal shifts.

John Bridgman is a Canadian games journalist who has freelanced for various publications, and a host of the Downloadable Concept podcast –  is our URL. He can be found on Twitter . SEGA of America provided BrokenJoysticks a digital copy of Yakuza 0 for review ahead of the game’s release.


Yakuza 0 Hands-On Preview

Posted on January 11, 2017 by Broken Joysticks

Previewed By: John Bridgman

The Yakuza games have always been a peculiar mix of gritty crime drama, bombastic martial arts, goofy side stories, and lots of minigames. Yakuza 0 is no exception, blending its cinematic storytelling with an almost overwhelming amount of side content to distract you from the game’s harsher elements.

As the title suggests, the game is a prequel to the long-running franchise, set back in the 80s and showing off the early days of series protagonist Kiryu Kazama and his recurring rival Goro Majima. The two characters operate in different cities, and their gameplay while similar, are stylistically different enough to keep the variety going.

Kiryu, when not partaking of the various diversions offered in Kamurocho, does a lot of muscle work – many of the problems he faces are solved through liberal applications of violence. He does this work both for the Yakuza and later as part of a real estate business. Fortunately, Kiryu is essentially the god of war with devastating combos to chain together into brutal finishers.

Combat is a spectacle with exciting martial arts manoeuvres and styles shown off, and each weighty punch and kick knocking piles of cash out of the recipient. Being able to change styles mid-battle makes for some fun strategizing, enhancing the martial arts movie feel the combat thrives on.

Majima has his own set of styles, which are in general a bit more stylish than Kiryu’s, though no less brutal – indeed, one of his styles, “Slugger”, is focused entirely around baseball bat fighting. To contrast, the similar style that Kiryu learns is “Beast”, which involves improvised weapons ranging from from boxes, furniture, or motorcycles, depending what is handy. A common refrain from defeated foes is “What are you?” which, given the ridiculous violence that can be pulled off, is a reasonable question.

Majima’s chapters take place in Sotenbori, where he manages a popular night club. When he’s not dealing with some very shady dealings and seedy characters that come with his job, the town offers more distractions, though it feels a little less overwhelming than Kamurocho. Oddly, it is here that the crafting system exists. Why there is crafting system I’m not sure, but it includes a system of dispatching agents around the world to find materials and recipes. This is something I’ve always had a soft spot for, so I welcome the opportunity.

Presentation is a strength of the game. It looks great, and features some great sound design. There’s a lot going on that screams 80s, including some familiar sound-alike music, parody characters, and, of course, brick-sized mobile phones. In a curious decision there are multiple styles for cutscenes, with some being simple cinematics, while others are sort of motion-comic styled vignettes.

Yakuza 0 is no exception game that attempts to blend over the top action with some gritty, and often uncomfortable, drama. Inferences and threats made to characters can and do approach some difficult territory – torture, mutilation and sexual violence are brought up, and some people may be understandably turned off from the game because of these, as well as some of the ways women are portrayed.

John Bridgman is a Canadian games journalist who has freelanced for various publications, and a host of the Downloadable Concept podcast ( is our URL). He can be found on Twitter . Yakuza 0’s publisher, SEGA, provided Broken Joysticks with a single download code for Yakuza 0 for our consideration.


Retro-View: Okami HD (PS3)

Posted on September 13, 2016 by Broken Joysticks

Review By Maria Maximoff

Okami is without a doubt the best example of how a video game can be a work of art. From the moment you start your first playthrough you are introduced to a vibrant world inspired by Japanese culture. For anyone with a love for action adventure platformers this is the Capcom published classic is your dream come true, and it’s available in HD on PSN.

I should start out by explaining my history with this game:

Back in early 2006 I received my monthly edition of Official PlayStation Magazine in the mail, and to my delight it contained a demo disc. Am I showing my age yet? I loved demo discs. It was the easiest way for me to play games I otherwise would have never gotten the chance to. Okami was published by Capcom in 2006 and originally developed by the now defunct Clover Studio. I played the Okami demo for the rest of that year. When Christmas came around and I was asked what single game I would like I said “drum roll please” Bully for PS2. I had a short attention span. I have never regretted my choice, but I always wondered how great it would be to play the rest of the game. Thank the old gods for the trend of HD re-releases.


Okami’s narrative is strongly rooted in Shinto Mythology. Nearly every character is based on a figure from shintoism. The sheer amount of Japanese folklore packed into Okami would take countless articles to cover. From sun goddesses to wood spirits to eight headed demons, playing Okami will introduce you to the world of Japanese mythology in the most engaging way possible.

The basic plot of Okami is familiar enough – An ancient evil has returned to the land and it is up to the titular character to traverse a vast cell shaded world filled with memorable characters. You take on the role of the sun goddess Amaterasu who has been reincarnated as the heroic wolf Shiranui. 100 years have passed since Shiranui and the warrior Nagi defeated the monster Orochi to save Kamiki Village. You are joined by a Navi like comedic companion named Issun. Throughout the story you meet a wood spirit named Sakuya, a would be swordsman with a wooden sword named Nami, and Waka a mysterious character who can see into the future. All the characters are both endearing and compelling and ad to the overall narative of the game as well as adding in perfectly placed bits of humor. The stakes feel high as you are tasked with bringing life and color back to the world and to defeat evil. By the end of the game I found myself rooting for these characters to succeed and to grow, a feat many modern games fall short of.


One of the biggest draws of Okami is how it’s art design as the main focus of its game-play. Although like most action platformers you can use basic striking attacks you will spend most of your time using Okami’s unqiue celestial brush. The brush is used in almost every element of the gameplay – In some instances you will need to use the brush to complete objectives such as bringing trees back to life, fixing a water wheel, cutting barriers down that block your path and so on. In one charming instance you use the ink from the brush to obscure the sight of a farmer so you can dig up daikon radishes. As the game progresses you will encounter different spirits that will award you with different brush strokes that can be used in a variety of different ways. The amount of ink you get at the start of the game is very generous and your ink pots regenerate quite quickly. This will work to you benefit as the game’s difficulty curve can become daunting at times. I died a lot in the later portions of the games. Although the game will at points give you an directional arrow that leads you to an important objective, for the majority of the game you are left to figure out what you are supposed to be doing on your own. Nothing impossible, but trial and error is a must in this game. The open ended nature of the quests you are given allows for a tremendous amount of freedom.

The gameplay has not changed at all from the original PS2 version released a decade ago for this modern re-master, and the HD overhaul makes every color pop out at you. The HD version of without a doubt the definitive version. A PC release on Steam would be a welcome however as there are times when the precision needed to perform certain brush strokes would have been made easier with a mouse and keyboard. Overall the artistic aspects of the gameplay along with the cell shaded graphics inspired by Japanese watercolor paintings and woodcarvings are a joy to behold.

My time spent playing Okami was worth waiting ten years to play. The art style was candy for my eyes and the gameplay kept me on my toes and constantly thinking “What do I do now?”. It’s a shame that the game did not command high sales at the time of its release. Unfortunately Okami came out at a transitional time in gaming when First Person Shooters where in and platformers were on the way out.Without a doubt if Okami had been released in today’s market it would have been a smash hit for the now defunct developer. If you have a love for action platformers and an interest in Japanese mythology this is most definitely the game for you. Even if you don’t have an interest in the mythology then the game is still loads of fun to play and well worth the price of admission.

Okami HD was part of last month’s Humble Capcom PlayStation Bundle


The Elder Scrolls Legends Open Beta Impressions

Posted on August 31, 2016 by Broken Joysticks

Impressions By: John Edward Bridgman Follow Him On Twitter @JEBWrench

The Following Impressions Were Based Upon The Open Beta of The Elder Scrolls Legends. You can sign up for the Open Beta on their official website if you’ve enjoyed these impressions.

Ideally, I would prefer to discuss The Elder Scrolls Legends without having to compare directly to other, more frequently played digital card games. However, it would be much more useful to get the most obvious comparison out of the way. So, with that it mind – The Elder Scrolls Legends is extremely reminiscent of Hearthstone.

This is by no means a negative or unfair comparison, as the core gameplay mechanics are quite clearly borrowed heavily from Blizzard’s hit game. For those unfamiliar with that game, players take turns playing cards from their hands, drawing a card and automatically generating additional resources each turn to summon creatures to attack and defend with or spells to affect the board in various ways.


Even the mechanic of giving the second player additional mana resources as compensation is borrowed, though this is where the small changes to the Hearthstone formula come into play that differentiate The Elder Scrolls Legends. As of writing, in the Beta, the second player receives three uses of bonus mana to compensate for the tempo loss. This feels excessive, and I would not be surprised if it gets changed at some point.

Another important change is in deck construction. In The Elder Scrolls Legends, rather than building your deck off a class, you choose two stats from which to create your card pool. Strength, for instance, focuses on powerful creatures while Intelligence cards tend to be more deceptive or magical in nature. This gives a surprising amount of flexibility in deck construction without requiring a large pool of cards.

Combat occurs on a battlefield with two lanes. Creatures may only attack creatures in their own lane, so positioning becomes an important element of strategy. Also, the two lanes have different properties. One of the lanes has a property that gives all creatures the ability Cover when summoned to it for a turn, meaning they cannot be attacked directly. It allows for the use of some surprisingly powerful glass-cannon creatures with a lower risk of them being removed by something more efficient.

Players start at thirty life and have a minimum deck size of fifty cards. Tied in with the life totals is what might be the most interesting mechanic of the game, the Rune mechanic. Players start with five runes in addition to their life total, and for every five life lost, one of that player’s runes breaks. When a rune breaks, that player immediately draws a card. If the card has the ability Prophecy, they can then play that card without paying its cost. The inclusion of this catch up mechanic makes some games feel very swingy, and though it can lead to some irritation of losing to luck, it does serve well to keep games competitive as long as possible.


Oddly enough, this game has a single player story mode. It’s through this you play the tutorial and unlock your first cards, as well as earn experience to level up your profile – and in a rather peculiar design decision, upgrade some if your cards. Various cards you acquire will be made better as you make progress, either with increased attack or health numbers, additional abilities, or sometimes a complete change in card function. When an upgrade occurs, you will get to choose how the upgrade occurs. I have not yet seen if the form you don’t choose becomes locked out.

Besides the upgrades, you get choices during the story mode which lets you decide between cards to unlock. These are presented as actions during the story, in basic situations such as whether to spare or execute a bandit, or, in another very bizarre moment, adopting a wolf puppy or throwing it off a waterfall. These decisions do not lock out the option you don’t choose, as they will still appear in booster packs.

The story is fairly typical fantasy, sending you through a variety of gimmick battles, many of which are quite fun and keep the games interesting. I’d like to see these available as options for Versus mode, but right now they are not. The presentation is quite nice, with some good static artwork in the cutscenes and in the cards themselves. The voice acting is not outstanding so far, but it’s serviceable, and there’s not too much of it to get in the way.


Currently, The Elder Scrolls Legends is a good digital card game that can occupy a lot of your time if you wanted to. It draws heavily on Hearthstone without question, and that may put people off from it. The differences in place are small, but they do give the game some feeling of its own identity. There is a great deal of potential here and I am interested to see where it goes from this point in the Beta. Sign-ups are open at https://legends.bethesda.net.


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