Tomb Raider games have gotten pretty good in the past six years, not that they weren't solid before. I'm still working on Rise of the Tomb Raider and still want to revisit Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition but I skipped ahead to the start of Shadow of the Tomb Raider to earn some Xbox Game Pass Quests rewards.

It's more of what you love about this series - tight spaces, sudden twists of plot, and sweet sweet exploration and puzzles punctuated with bursts of combat:


For more like this, follow my Mixer channel and find archived streams in my YouTube channel.

Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice is a fighting game with a story. Not like Dead or Alive or Mortal Kombat-style story modes, which are a series of fights strung together with cut scenes. This one plays more like an action/adventure title with voices in your head guiding your actions.

Did I mention that you're psychotic? The game's creators did research into real psychosis, and built this into the story. However, they failed to provide much of a tutorial so I recorded a full hour of me figuring out the controls and game mechanics:


For more like this, follow my Mixer channel and find archived streams in my YouTube channel.

Dead or Alive is our favorite fighting game series - it's silly, it's sexy, it's fun - so of course I preordered Dead or Alive 6.

So far, it seems more polished than it's predecessor, Last Round, though I was unable to stream any of the Story Mode. When I saw that Mixer was blocking it, I quit back to the main menu and tried DOA Quests instead. These are mini challenges that help you unlock items like costumes in the game. I then chased it with some classic Arcade action:


For more like this, follow my Mixer channel and find archived streams in my YouTube channel.

Crackdown is a favorite series of ours. I spent a lot of time trying to capture a 1st 30 minutes for the original game when it landed in backward compatibility - due to technical issues, it took several tries before I could save a run-through and post it. I also posted my climb up the Agency Tower, which is a thrill every time I've done it.

So when Crackdown 3 landed on Xbox One, I had to give it a try. Fortunately it was included in Xbox Game Pass so I dove in as soon as I could. See what happens in the prologue and first battles of the game:


For more like this, follow my Mixer channel and find archived streams in my YouTube channel.

I went into Anthem with lowered expectations.

I'm not a multiplayer fan. I do enjoy Destiny's shared multiplayer experience where I can just play solo and there happen to be other people around who may help each other out from time to time.

Likewise with Forza Horizon 4 - Forzathon Live is the best (like Destiny Public Events), but it's only a portion of the game and not the main reason I play.

Anthem doesn't seem to have me in mind at all. Combat is OK and I'm sure I can get the hang of flying with a proper tutorial and some practice. Alas, respawning seems to be broken - after several minutes of trying to re-enter the fray, I finally had to hit Exit.

And I'm OK with that. I might revisit once the game launches and stabilizes. But probably not, based on this demo. YMMV.

For more like this, follow my Mixer channel and find archived streams in my YouTube channel.

Super Meatboy Forever's Tommy Refenes

Super Meatboy is one of those games that sticks with you. It's punishingly hard, and it's not for everyone/ But if you played it, you will remember it.

So when I saw Team Meat co-founder Tommy Refenes - who I quickly recognized from Indie Game: The Movie - at PAX West 2018 with the sequel, Super Meatboy Forever, I had to find out more.

The game is due out in April 2019 on PC, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One. Got a few minutes? Find out if it might be for you.

This is one of our floor interviews from PAX West 2018 (read our PAX West 2018 show summary).

You can download Busy Gamer Nation from our podcast page, on iTunes, or via RSS feed.

My Brother RabbitIrony CurtainSince PAX West 2018 in September, life kinda got away from me but I'm back and committed to sharing the great interviews I collected from the show floor.

First up is one of my favorite game companies, Artifex Mundi, trying some new things. Known for some of the better hidden object games, especially if you prefer to play on console like I do, they're moving into making ambitious adventure titles.

My Brother Rabbit is already out - I've beat it and loved it (and you can watch the first 30 minutes to see if it's your sort of game). Gameplay is similar to a hidden object title but with hand drawn art and overarching play that's similar to The Tiny Bang Story. You can hear all about the creative inspiration for this journey of healing portrayed from the perspective of young children.

Irony Curtain is more like a classic LucasArts or Sierra adventure game. I tried it at PAX and enjoyed the satiric look at Soviet-style bureaucracy in just trying to get a hotel room. This one should be out soon.

This is one of our floor interviews from PAX West 2018 (read our PAX West 2018 show summary).

You can download Busy Gamer Nation from our podcast page, on iTunes, or via RSS feed.

Gorogoa is a must play for puzzle fans. We stumbled across it at the Annapurna Interactive booth at PAX West 2017 while standing in line waiting for Donut County.

The game - available on iOS, Android, Kindle Fire, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One - is beautiful and actually quite complicated, requiring you to zoom in and out, manipulate what appears in four quadrants, locate key elements, remove framing pieces such as doorways and portals, and then place them over other elements to advance the story-driven puzzles:


For more like this, follow my Mixer channel and find archived streams in my YouTube channel.

If you listen to our podcast, you know Donut County is one of our favorite PAX finds of the past few years. Initially on PlayStation and PC/Mac, then iOS, and now Xbox One and Switch, it's a very simple game with a ludicrous story that is so very fun to play.

Basically you control a hole in the ground and slowly suck down every object in the world, kind of like a reverse Katamari Damacy:


For more like this, follow my Mixer channel and find archived streams in my YouTube channel.

The Gardens Between looked like my kind of game, and after playing it I can say that it is - mostly. It's a puzzler with a time manipulation dynamic. Kind of simplistic but with a few multi-dimensional twists. Sort of like Fez blended with Blinx: The Time Sweeper.

Best of all, it's free to play with Xbox Game Pass (also for pay on PlayStation, Switch, PC, Mac, and Linux):


For more like this, follow my Mixer channel and find archived streams in my YouTube channel.

Two months later, I'm still playing Forza Horizon 4 pretty much every day. Mostly for the addictive hourly Forzathons but I do love the weekly challenges and steady progression (even without farming much influence on Mixer).

Now the first expansion, Fortune Island, is out and I quickly establish a new Festival site, work out the easy clues for the first 1M credit Treasure Chest, drift up the Needle Climb, and explore:


For more like this, follow my Mixer channel and find archived streams in my YouTube channel.

Just Cause 3 is one of our favorite action games of all time. So naturally we preordered Just Cause 4, which unlocked yesterday for Gold Edition owners and promises some new innovations such as extreme weather and giant balloons you can tether to pretty much anything.

In just the first 30 minutes you can see that gameplay is pretty similar to the winning formula of its predecessor - lots of grappling, parachuting, and wingsuiting:

Here's another 30 minutes, so you can see some of the innovations including tethers that attach balloons and booster rockets to things:

For more like this, follow my Mixer channel and find archived streams in my YouTube channel.

I first saw Rooster Teeth's Bendy And The Ink Machine at PAX West 2018 where I played part of the demo but couldn't get a real read on it. It looks like a cross between the animation style of Cuphead and simplified first-person mechanics of BioShock (complete with audio logs to collect) and maybe a dash of the horror vibe from Five Nights at Freddy's.

Having played a few hours now, I can say that it gets much darker - literally and figuratively - and is not afraid to drop some jump scares on you. The first 30 minutes gets you a little past the start of Chapter Two with no significant spoilers (apart from the first puzzle, which just takes a little wandering to figure out):

For more like this, follow my Mixer channel and find archived streams in my YouTube channel.

I totally wasn't expecting Noir Chronicles: City Of Crime, a soft-boiled hidden object detective story from one of my favorite studios, Artifex Mundi. There was no trial version, for once, but I was intrigued enough to buy it anyway.

If you don't mind the usual half-baked voice acting typical of these hidden object adventures, the game is pretty fun:

For more like this, follow my Mixer channel and find archived streams in my YouTube channel.

Let's start by saying: We love Portal. Long-time followers may recall our impromptu tour of Valve thanks to our Child's Play charity purchase of a Portal 2 merchandising artifact.

That said, I didn't care much for the original Bridge Constructor when I tried it some time ago. My bridges tended to collapse and they game didn't do a great job of explaining what I was doing wrong.

That's fixed in Bridge Constructor Portal, which joins the joy of GLaDOS with a better tutorial and a Lemmings-like test chamber-solving mechanic.

I played a little long because I wanted to solve one more test chamber, and then I found the Menu option that provided an in-depth look at sound bridge construction techniques:

For more like this, follow my Mixer channel and find archived streams in my YouTube channel.

I've been a fan of Artifex Mundi hidden object games since they first landed on consoles, and I've played nearly all of them. At PAX West, I met some of the team and they shared how they are dabbling in different sorts of games (interview coming soon about this and another title they're making that's due next year!). My Brother Rabbit has hidden object elements but it's more of a puzzle adventure, quite similar in style and mechanics to The Tiny Bang Story - a fun mobile game I quite enjoyed years ago.

This game is beautiful and delightful but with a tender story:

For more like this, follow my Mixer channel and find archived streams in my YouTube channel.

Snake Pass looked like my kind of game when it got added to Xbox Game Pass: a puzzler where you play as a viper. Alas, it landed while I was in the midst of PAX West and then I got hooked on Destiny 2: Forsaken and Forza Horizon 4. I finally remembered that I wanted to try it and took the serpentine plunge.

While not super kiddified it is still quite family friendly. Where it fails is the controls. Mastering how to be a snake doesn't seem like it would be that difficult, but this video is evidence to the contrary:

For more like this, follow my Mixer channel and find archived streams in my YouTube channel.

One of the best new things in Forza Horizon 4 is Forzathon Live, the hourly co-op activities that are sort of like Destiny public events but with vehicles.

You can earn up to 30 Forzathon points per event, which can be spent on weekly bonus items - notably rare vehicles plus clothing items, car horns, and wheelspins. If you play a lot, picking up these items will become a no brainer and can help you fill in the gaps in your collections. I'm close to banking 900 points before the next season starts.

These events start every hour on the hour, so you'll want to login about 10 minutes early to connect to a Horizon Life session, check the map to see where the pink circle for Forzathon Live is, and then either drive or fast travel to it. Even if you keep the game running dormant or resident in memory on your console, you'll likely lose your Horizon Life session and it may take a minute or two to reconnect. I've also had the game load with a black screen, forcing me to force quit and relaunch it. Plan accordingly.

Travel tricks: If Forzathon Live happens to be at or very near the Horizon Festival site, you can fast travel there for free regardless of how many Fast Travel boards you've cleared (just use the Cars menu instead of the map). Also, if you purchase Fairlawn Manor near Edinburgh, you can use its bonus perk to fast travel to any spot on the map, making it easier to drop in precisely where the event is. If you do need to spend credits, remember that credits are easier to earn that Forzathon points so it's probably worth it.

Vehicle choice: You'll want a vehicle that's ready for anything: speed (launch in particular, as you'll generally want to get from zero to 100+ as fast as you can), off-road (since many challenges are on dirt roads), and drifting (as drift zones are a popular event round and cars that corner like they on rails won't score as high as those that can slide around curves).

Here's a sample of one such event, which played out in about half the allotted time (audio is scratchy at first but clears up about 30 seconds in):

Here are some additional tips to help clear Forzathon Live events quickly--

  • At the start, the screen will briefly lock and you won't be able to see anything but what's directly in front of you. Position yourself facing a road so you can see the directional marker as soon as it appears to get a head start toward the first objective.
  • When traveling to rounds, you don't need to follow the prescribed path - by all means, go off-road and make a beeline for the marker. Just be careful not to overshoot the start of any zone challenges.
  • Vehicles will ghost, so don't worry about crashing into anyone or anything except impenetrable barriers (large rocks, thick trees, and cement walls). It takes a little getting used to but driving through ghost cars will become second nature after a few of these events.
  • For speed traps, quantity is more important than speed. Many racers will drive a distance away to get their speed up. Backing too far away is risky as you might miss the trap entirely. You're better off pulling a 180 as soon as you clear the trap and then powering through again. Rinse, repeat until the challenge is over. A vehicle with high launch should get you up to 100 mph or more per pass, and it adds up quick - especially if there are lots of drivers.
  • Drifting can be tough, especially on long courses. There are many opportunities to fail. Do not go far off the road (drifts only count on the track itself) and avoid backing up or turning around, or you risk losing it all. Just loop around quick as you can and keep going in the prescribed direction. Make sure you nail the final marker (just drive through it) or you will lose all your accrued points. Better to bank a smaller amount than nothing at all. Then turn around as fast as possible and do it again.
  • Drift markers and speed trap posts can get knocked over so you may need to use the mini-map to see when you're approaching the end of a zone.
  • Danger signs, as with speed traps, are a volume game and don't necessarily require a ton of speed - just be sure you can clear any obstacles like trees and rocks to land it and bank the points. Also, danger signs work both ways - so if the terrain allows it, climb and hit it again coming back up from the bottom for a much smaller jump that's still worth a few bonus points. Every little bit helps!
  • Some challenges require tricks - either any skills or specific ones. Get into an open space so you have room to maneuver. If you have the Angel perk on your favorite Forzathon vehicle, you can suffer one crash without losing your points.
  • If you end up in a Forzathon Live event by yourself or with one other person (which has happened to me a few times), don't give up. You may be able to clear 1 or 2 rounds depending on the difficulty. I've also seen a flood of people arrive late, thankful that I had almost cleared the first round on my own.
  • Not all Forzathon Live events are created equal. Some can be cleared in a few minutes while others, even with a crowd of players, may leave you struggling to complete in the 15 minutes allotted. Sometimes you'll come up short, either due to volume of players and/or difficulty of rounds. But you should generally get something for your efforts.
  • If you get disconnected from Live mid-event, there's really nothing you can do to rejoin. If you connect to a new Horizon Life session, you'll be too late and still won't get credit for any rounds you helped complete. Don't worry, there's another Forzathon Live event happening in less than an hour.

Anything to add? Post your thoughts on Forzathon Live in the comments.

If you know me, then you know that Forza Horizon is my jam, at least where racing games are concerned. I love the open world-ness and exploration. This may be the Forza Horizon 4 demo, but this is how the full game will open, I'm certain. You start with a quick tour of all four seasons and then jump into Summer races and activities, including a movie stunt driver stint that I messed up hilariously on the first try.

You also can review some of the settings (like how to turn off Rewind, which I consider a dangerous crutch that once ruined me for other racing games) and some of the early character customization options (J chose the nickname "Nitro"):

As expected, the demo represents the start of the full game. Pro-tip: If you don't quit, you can play for awhile - at least until the Autumn season. But if you quit and the game leaves memory, you start over.

Now that the full game has launched, I played up to where my first 30 minutes with the demo left off and picked up, more or less, there with another hour of play. You can observe how car tuning can be critical to getting wins and see some of the deeper customization options. I've also created a Club - after you join the roster (a couple hours into the game), you can join: Look for Busy Gamer Nation.

Here's my next hour of play:

For more like this, follow my Mixer channel and find archived streams in my YouTube channel.

I was on the fence about Destiny 2: Forsaken but I enjoyed enough of Year 1 to give the second year (aka Season 4) a shot.

The game has already evolved quite a bit. Most of my mods were toast so I ground them down to component bits. My Solstice of Heroes mid-level armor, which I ground solo for, is nearly all retired. But I'm enjoying the new story and game dynamics (even though PvP is not my jam) so I'd say it was a worthwhile investment. You can watch the first 40 minutes (gameplay proper starts about 10 minutes in):

For more like this, follow my Mixer channel and find archived streams in my YouTube channel.

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