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Tales from Telltale: A Telltale Games Retrospective

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The shutting down of Telltale Games was heartbreaking to watch unfold, and not just because so many incredibly talented people were out of a job, but because many of us here at Goomba Stomp have spent a fair amount of time playing many of the studio’s games over the past decade or so.

With the recent news that the company is being revived, we’ve decided to re-run this article which looks back at a few of the games that we have fond memories playing. Let us know which Telltale game is your favourite and feel free to share any other thoughts, memories and general feedback in the comments below.

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Batman Telltale

Batman: The Telltale Series

One of the biggest properties that Telltale ever had the good fortune of procuring also led to one of their best franchises. What set Batman: The Telltale Series apart from other Telltale games was its focus on tactical takedowns of enemies, and a QTE system that really fit with the Caped Crusader and his bag of tricks.

However, what really made Batman: The Telltale Series stand out was how it revamped the Batman mythos for its own purposes. Drawing inspiration from a wide range of sources (including Batman: The Animated SeriesBatman v SupermanThe Dark Knight and The Long Halloween) Telltale’s take on the World’s Greatest Detective still managed to have its own unique voice.

Putting a heavier focus on Bruce Wayne allowed the game to have a different kind of storytelling, and the ways which the game re-wrote the history of the Dark Knight were truly shocking. One need only look at how classic characters like Thomas Wayne and Vicki Vale were dynamically retooled for this story to see the kind of brass balls on the writers of Telltale’s Batman series.

Introducing a compelling new villain, while offering vastly different takes on Batman’s classic rogue’s gallery, Batman: The Telltale Series is a wonderfully fresh take on a character who has been around for eight decades, and it belongs well within the company of great Batman stories. (Mike Worby)

Enemy Within

Batman: The Enemy Within

If Batman: The Telltale Series was Telltale’s attempt at putting their own unique spin on Bob Kane and Bill Finger’s Caped Crusader, then Batman: The Enemy Within was where they doubled down on their vision of Gotham City’s unique cast of characters.

The Enemy Within isn’t just one of Telltale’s best games, it’s also one of the best Batman stories in years. Focusing on Bruce Wayne’s attempts at infiltrating an international cabal of villains known as The Pact. This boldly dynamic tale introduces plenty of new blood into Telltale’s Batman universe, including fresh takes on Harley Quinn, the Riddler, Amanda Wallace, and most importantly: The Joker.

A character who has truly been done to death over the last decade, managing a fresh approach to the Joker seems like something of an impossibility in 2018. Yet Telltale truly pulled off a masterful new Joker in The Enemy Within by allowing you to shape the madman as he soul-searched for his purpose in the world. Treating him like the unstable creature he is would lead to something like the classic Joker we’ve all come to know and loathe but for players that tried to steer him away from his villainous path, a daring new version of the Joker was waiting to be unveiled.

Featuring 2 completely different scenarios for the final episode based entirely on how you handled the Joker, The Enemy Within is a compelling and shocking take on the Batman mythology, and easily one of the best games Telltale ever crafted. One of the greatest tragedies of the studio’s closure is that we won’t get to see any more games set in their brilliant vision of Gotham City.  (Mike Worby)

TalesFromTheBorderlands

Tales From The Borderlands

It’s hard to imagine anybody could have had high hopes for Tales From The Borderlands prior to release. A mash-up of Telltale’s patented narrative focused adventures and co-operative, loot-grind first-person shooter series Borderlands? I was a big fan of the work Telltale had done with their previous titles since The Walking Dead, but this one seemed destined to disappoint from the moment it was announced. What’s so surprising about Tales From The Borderlands is not that it didn’t bomb, but that it just might be some of Telltale’s finest work. The game throws together a rag-tag band of anti-heroes and ne’er-do-wells who – largely for reasons pertaining to fortune, glory, or survival – must unite to take on common foes, and maybe, just maybe, learn some valuable life lessons along the way. The cast is quickly likable and the writing is sharp with the sort of back and forth witty banter you’d expect from a movie like Guardians of the Galaxy. The story begins in medias res, with two of our heroes being held captive by a masked kidnapper, and each offers input into how they wound up in the pickle they’re in. This narrative style allows Telltale an opportunity to subvert their trademark tough, morally ambiguous decision-making style, and instead play the choices for laughs as the two leads remember the events of their tale very differently, each blaming the other for what went wrong. What starts as a charming but silly and disposable yarn transforms throughout the series into a genuinely interesting tale with a strong emotional core as the cast begin to trust one another and reveal hidden depths to their characters. The apex is probably episode four, which delights from start to finish, from an outrageous opening title sequence to a heroic sacrifice and ultimately the greatest QTE in Telltale history – it hits all the right notes, and proves that Telltale couldn’t just make you cry but could have you laughing out loud as well. (John Cal McCormick)

Walking Dead Season Two

The Walking Dead: Season 2

The Walking Dead: Season 2 was about Clementine finding her way on her own. The player questions who Clementine is while growing up with her hero gone and her future changing rapidly every day. She’s alone now, and even though Lee taught her to care for others, the second season dares to teach Clem, and the player, that the only person to save is yourself.

Clementine, with her new set of survivors, has to figure this out on her own, and she and the player’s hand is forced to make some harrowing and challenging decisions. Telltale was most successful in getting players to challenge their beliefs, morals, or the choices they ultimately make. The brilliant mechanic of only having an allotted time to make that choice gives the player no thought process, only gut reactions.

Telltale creates in Walking Dead an inescapable and hardening truth that conventional morals have no room within a zombie apocalypse. While Season 1 provided relatively clear-cut decisions, Season 2 challenged that by reminding the player over and over again that you cannot save anyone besides yourself. That’s a lot for a little girl growing up in an extremely unsafe world. It’s clear that Clem didn’t know, or neither did the player, of who she really is outside of Lee.

The core of this particular game is patience, peacefulness, and conversation. Even though the hellhole has only deepened, Season 2 is about finding those moments of quiet and how to talk to each other, rather than just life or death decisions.  (Katrina Lind)

Michonne

The Walking Dead: Michonne 

Telltale means a lot to me. Not just because it’s games are good, but because it’s games have had such a big role in shaping my life over the last few years. The first Telltale game I played was The Walking Dead: Season 1. I was in high school at the time, had just recently begun listening to Podcast Beyond and was in the middle of my second to last year of exams.

It was the point in my life where I moved beyond just playing games and actually became invested in the greater industry around them. I hadn’t heard of Telltale’s The Walking Dead until Greg Miller spoke about it on Beyond. It wasn’t available on consoles in New Zealand at the time, so I started playing it on my iPad. I had no idea how important that game would be to me. It was emotional, riveting and the first game to ever make me cry. From that day forward I’ve regarded it as one of my favourite games of all time, viewed the opinions of Greg Miller crucial to finding new games and thought for the first time that games might be able to tell better stories than movies.

I loved their follow up projects like The Wolf Among Us and Tales From the Borderlands, reviewed Batman: Season 1 and Guardians of the Galaxy during my time as a game reviewer and wrote countless news articles in the lead up to A New Frontier. However, there is one Telltale game very close to me, that I’ve never spoken about.

For the last few years, I’ve struggled with mental illness. When I was first diagnosed I found it hard to understand my condition and find appropriate representations of it in media. I wanted to feel I was understood, that I wasn’t alone in this. Then I found The Walking Dead: Michonne. It’s a spin-off title, three episodes long and released between seasons 2 and 3 of Telltale’s ongoing series.

Most push Michonne aside for not progressing The Walking Dead formula further, viewing it as a bland derivative of the past games. I saw another character who’s inner struggles were eating them alive. I saw a story of someone who appeared strong in front of others, but weak and vulnerable when alone. It was a powerful message to me at the time. Even the strongest of us can be tortured by invisible demons. The Walking Dead: Season 1 meant a lot to many people. The Walking Dead: Michonne meant a tremendous amount to me despite being panned by others. Not every game needs to connect with everyone, one person is enough. So it’s saddening to know that both I and others won’t continue having experiences like this in the future. (Chris Bowring) 

The Walking Dead Final Season

The Walking Dead: The Final Season

As I have been very fervently pointing out over the last month The Walking Dead: The Final Season is already among Telltale’s finest work, even as a half finished game. The bummer of it all is that it might remain that way.

As most reviews have pointed out, the new engine that runs The Final Season is just the breath of fresh air that Telltale needed to reinvigorate their formula. Things like totally free control of the camera with the right analog stick and a more strategic combat system are the precise things that Telltale needed to bring their gameplay back up to snuff with their already solid storytelling.

With these improvements The Walking Dead: The Final Season is poised to be a contender with the very best of Telltale’s games. It’s really too bad that the timing couldn’t be worse for them. Imagining a Wolf Among Us sequel or a Stranger Things game running on this engine is enough to really get a fan excited.

Will Telltale find a partner to help them finish the game or will Clementine’s journey go unfinished this close to its conclusion? I guess we’ll just have and see, won’t we? (Mike Worby)

Wolf Among Us

The Wolf Among Us

After a decade perfecting a formula that mimicked television and turned video games into a series of episodes, Telltale followed up their smash hit The Walking Dead with an episodic prequel of another famous graphic novel – Bill Willingham’s comic series Fables. Taking place in the fictional New York City in 1986 (nearly 20 years before the events of the comic), Telltale’s neo-noir crime drama centers on Bigby Wolf, the sheriff of Fabletown who sets out to hopefully solve a murder mystery before the killer strikes again.

Of the two dozen or so games Telltale created since the studio was founded on October 4, 2004, The Wolf Among Us may just be the very best – a smart, stylized whodunit that is both sobering and thrilling, and sometimes, magical.

There’s a lot to love about The Wolf Among Us, from the gorgeous neon, cel-shaded graphics that blend splashes of bright color with the muddy palette of the classic film noir to the large cast of eccentric mythical characters – but what stood out the most for me is how The Wolf Among Us took inspiration from The Blue Dahlia, one of the most overlooked and under-rated film noirs written by the great Raymond Chandler. Like The Blue Dahlia, The Wolf Among Us interweaves a tangled plot centered on the death of a woman, a wrongly accused man, and a range of possible suspects while addressing issues of neighborhood class struggles. In other words, The Wolf Among Us is less a story of what these legends and folklore figures would do in the real world and more a dark detective story that puts us in the head of the Big Bad Wolf and forces us to makes decisions that will ultimately have a great impact on the lives of everyone he meets along the way.

In keeping with the structure of a compelling whodunnit, each episode unfolds at a steady pace while scattering clues, yet never giving too much away. It’s basically a Raymond Chandler nursery rhyme that paves out a fascinating detective story and an even more fascinating gumshoe who spends his time meticulously pawing through evidence, trying to decipher how it all relates to the crime at large. The setup works mainly because Bigby is such an intriguing character – and the more he investigates, the tougher his choices (and yours) become as he explores the seedy dark underbelly of his hometown. And when things get really bad, it takes a toll on him mentally and physically, as he transforms into an actual wolf.

The season’s final episode, “Cry Wolf” (which the Internet was falling over itself trying to understand) makes the entire journey well worth your time as it culminates in a swirl of revelations that left many people baffled and confused. If The Walking Dead was Telltale’s tear-jerker, The Wolf Among Us is the studio’s head-scratcher, a rare game that left me with a lot to think about, long after the credits rolled. (Ricky D)

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Best Video Game Soundtracks 2019

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Best Video Game Soundtracks 2019

Awesome Mixtape Vol. 5

It’s that time once again in which I bring to you my awesome mixtape featuring the best tracks from the best video game soundtracks of the year. Last year, my mixtape featured tracks from Triple-A titles such as Red Dead Redemption 2 and indie darlings like Celeste. In 2017, my picks for best soundtracks included tracks from some of my favorite games including Cuphead, Breath of the Wild and Into the Woods, to name just a few. Well, 2019 has been another banner year for the industry and as always, the games were blessed with an astounding selection of musical scores— some would argue the soundtracks were even better than the actual games at times. As always, it wasn’t easy deciding which songs to include and what to leave out— and as always, I’ve also mixed in some audio clips from various cut scenes while trying to keep it spoiler-free. Feel free to share this link and let me know if you think I’ve missed any great soundtracks in the comments below.

Best Video Game Soundtracks 2019 Playlist

Death Stranding clip
Death Stranding
: Low Roar – “I’ll Keep Coming”
Life Is Strange 2 clip
Life is Strange 2: Seyr – “Colour To Colour”
Life is Strange 2: Jonathan Morali – “Into the Woods”
Life Is Strange 2 clip
Sayonara Wild Hearts: Daniel Olsen – “Sayonara Wild Heart”
Sayonara Wild Hearts: Daniel Olsen – “Wild Hearts Never Die”
Death Stranding: CHVRCHES – “Death Stranding”
Afterparty clip
Untitled Goose Game – Dan Golding – “Title and Credits”
Afterparty: scntfc – “Hades Gonna Hate”
Afterparty: scntfc – “Schoolyard Strangler”
Untitled Goose Game – Dan Golding – “The Garden”
Octopath Traveler: Yasunori Nishiki – Main Theme
Octopath Traveler: Yasunori Nishiki – Cyrus the Scholar
Kingdom Hearts 3 clip
Fire Emblem Three Houses clip
Fire Emblem Three Houses: Yuka Tsujiyoko, Hirokazu Tanaka – “Main Theme”
Fire Emblem Three Houses: Yuka Tsujiyoko, Hirokazu Tanaka – “Blue Skies and a Battle”
Devil May Cry 5 clip
Devil May Cry 5: Kota Suzuki – “Urizen Boss Battle Music”
Untitled Goose Game – Dan Golding – “The Garden”
FAR: Lone Sails: Joel Schoch – “Colored Engine”
Days Gone: Nathan Whitehead— “Soldier’s Eye”
Death Stranding: Low Roar – “Easy Way Out”
Death Stranding clip
Death Stranding: Low Roar – “Easy Way Out”
Metro Exodus: Alexey Omelchuk – “Main Theme”
Resident Evil 2 Remake clip
Resident Evil 2 Remake: Masami Ueda, Shusaku Uchiyama, Shun Nishigaki – “Mr.X Theme Music (T-103)”
Sayonara Wild Hearts: Daniel Olsen – “Begin Again”
Life is Strange 2: Lincoln Grounds, Pat Reyford – “Morning Good Morning”
Life is Strange 2: Sufjan Stevens – “Death With Dignity”
Luigi’s Mansion 3 clip
Luigi’s Mansion 3: Koji Kondo – “Main Theme”
Ape Out: Matt Boch – “Intro”
Deltarune: Toby Fox – “Field of Hopes and Dreams”
Return of the Obra Dinn: Lucas Pope – “Loose Cargo”
“Star Wars: Imperial March” Hip Hop Remix
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order: John Williams and the London Symphony Orchestra
Death Stranding: Silent Poets – “Asylum for The Feeling”
Catherine: Full Body: Shoji Meguro – “Tomorrow”
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening: Koji Kondo – “Marin’s Ballad of the Windfish”
Metro Exodus – Alexey Omelchuk: “Teardrops”
Sekiro: Yuka Kitamura – “Ashina Reservoir”
Return of the Obra Dinn: Lucas Pope – “The Doom”
Medley: Eye of Death / Wild Hearts Never Die / Dragon Heart / Clair De Lune

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‘New Super Lucky’s Tale’ is Polished, Pleasing Platforming

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Streamlined, focused, and tons of fun, New Super Lucky’s Tale is a fantastic reworking for the Switch that absolutely nails the lighter side of Nintendo-style 3D platforming. Tight controls and a nearly flawless camera support running and jumping challenges which more often than not emphasize creativity over complexity, and it’s all set against a colorful, pun-filled, charming world full of quirky characters and light satire. Though the experience is not as epic or razzle-dazzle as something like Super Mario Odyssey, developer Playful has wisely trimmed the collect-a-thon fat that so many others in the genre employ in order to pad play time. The result lasts long enough to satisfy, yet also instills a fervent desire to see more adventures from its fearless, furry hero.

New Super Lucky's Tale carnival

In the fine tradition of its gaming ancestors dating back to the N64 days, the basics of New Super Lucky’s Tale revolve around acquiring arbitrary objects sprinkled through various stages in order to unlock doors and move on to the next area. This time it’s pages from the mystical Book of Ages, which contains the power to travel between worlds, and is the endgame of an nefarious cat sorcerer named Jinx and his gang of cartoonish thugs, the Kitty Litter. As part of a secret organization sworn to defending this kiddie-friendly Necronomicon knockoff, it’s up to Lucky to track down as many of these clover-embossed pages as he possibly can, and hopefully complete the book before his nemesis can get his claws on it.

It’s doubtful that the story will be what compels most players to keep going, and to that end, New Super Lucky’s Tale‘s simple setup also fits right in with its genre brethren. Still, Lucky is an amiable and upbeat fox to follow around, and Playful does an excellent job of surrounding him with a cast of gibberish-spouting weirdo goofballs that includes hayseed grub worms, supremely zen Yetis, loyal rock golems, and slick carny ghosts. Though their dialogue does little to drive any sort of narrative, it is endlessly amusing and often witty in its cheesy wordplay. In other words, the writing has a very Nintendo-like feel in its eccentricities that adds to the overall fun.

New Super Lucky's Tale factory

Those jokes would be less endearing without fantastic gameplay, but New Super Lucky’s Tale delivers some of the best running and jumping this side of Mario. Though this fabulous fox can’t quite match the plumber’s precision, Lucky does feel extremely responsive, and has a nice sense of weight and momentum that never feels out of control. He also comes out of the den with a well-rounded moveset, including a nifty double jump, a swishy tail (a la Mario’s spin punch), and the ability to burrow under ground. These moves can be chained together to create a satisfying flow both when exploring 3D stages and side-scrolling ones alike, and will surely inspire players to use them in creative ways in order to access seemingly out-of-reach spots.

And they’ll have to if they want to find all four pages hidden in each stage. New Super Lucky’s Tale requires a bare minimum of these leaflets to be found (and simply beating the stage merits one as a reward), but it’s in rooting around those nooks and crannies where much of the fun lies, and it gives the developer a chance to squeeze every ounce out of the unique mixture of environments they’ve created. From the assorted carnival games of a haunted amusement park to a beach party dance-off, there are a surprising amount of different things for Lucky (and players) to do here, with hardly any two stages ever feeling alike. One 3D level might task Lucky with casually exploring a farm as he gathers up the members of country jug band, while a side-scrolling obstacle course sees him dodging canon fire from an airship piloted by a feline Napolean. Some stages have a platforming bent, while others emphasize searching out secrets tucked away in mini puzzles.

New Super Lucky's Tale farm

It’s an absolutely delightful mix, and that sheer variety keeps New Super Lucky’s Tale fresh all the way through to the epic battle with fat cat Jinx himself. And though platforming veterans might find the overall challenge a bit too much on the friendly side, a few of the later bosses and and bonus stages may make that 100% goal a little tougher than it at first seems. And yet, it’s hard not to want to go back to incomplete stages or that block-pushing puzzle that stumped the first time around; the brisk pace and clever design will likely compel many players to find every scrap of paper out there.

No, Lucky isn’t the second coming of Mario, but there are few 3D platformers that offer such a polished, concise, joyful experience as New Super Lucky’s Tale. It may have taken a couple of efforts to get there (and for those who have played the original Super Lucky’s Tale, levels and bosses have been reworked here), but Playful has nailed a balance between creativity and efficiency that begs for more. 

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How Do ‘Pokemon Sword and Shield’s’ Max Raid Battles Measure Up?

Max Raid Battles are one of Pokemon Sword and Shield’s premier new features. Do they live up to their full potential? Let’s find out.

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max raid battles

One of the most heavily promoted new features of Pokémon Sword and Shield have been their Max Raid Battles. These gargantuan fights are both a key part of the online experience and likely the first taste most players will get of Dynamaxed Pokémon in-game. So, how’d this take on Pokémon Go’s raid system pan out in the series’ first mainline entry on console?

Well, on the plus side, getting into the thick of a raid is super straightforward. After the opening hour or two, players are introduced to the Wild Area and can access Max Raid Battles straight away by walking up to a pillar of red light on the field. From there you can invite others, challenge the raid with NPCs, and choose which Pokémon you want to use.

Real Friends Raid Together

Playing with friends online, though, is a bit more convoluted. There’s no “Invite Friends” option to be seen. Instead, all social features are handled through the Y-comm (literally accessed by pressing the Y button). It’s here that players can Link Trade, Link Battle, exchange player cards, and more.

After actively connecting to the internet–which has to be done each play session and each time the Switch is put into sleep mode–it’s up to the host of the match to find a portal and send an invitation to everyone. A notification will pop for friends on the side of the screen, and then it’s up to everyone to join the match directly through the Y-comm interface.

If players want real people to fill in any remaining slots (all raids are four-person affairs), they’ll need to join before the room fills up. Setting a Link Code avoids this hassle by creating a room but, unlike Salmon Run in Splatoon 2, only computer players can fill remaining spots after friends finish joining this way.

After some experimenting and fudding about, my buddy and I were able to hop into matches fairly quickly without much issue. Nonetheless, it’s hard to shake the feeling that creating friend lobbies is only such a headache because it had to be tied to the Y-comm. Pair this with the fact that battling while waiting for a friend to create a room can cause the notification not to pop, and getting a group together is a bit more painful than it should be.

Max Raid Battle Rundown

The raids themselves are a surprisingly engaging twist on the classic Pokémon battle formula. Groups of four challengers work together to take on a Dynamaxed raid boss. Each raid boss has a different star rating, and even the 1-star battles are no joke the first few times around. These boss Pokémon are merciless, and regularly one-shot lower leveled ‘mons with ease.

To combat these monstrous foes, one random trainer in every group is granted the ability to Dynamax their chosen Pokémon and lead the charge. The Dynamaxed Pokémon gets the benefit of having extra-powerful moves and increased HP, though it’s rather disappointing that there only seems to be one Max Move per move type (one Grass move, one Dark move, and so on). Each of these has a secondary effect on the battlefield; some trigger sandstorms, others trigger a health regeneration field that heals everyone a bit each turn. Regular moves with type advantages deal a significant chunk of damage, but it’s Max Moves that can truly turn the tide of battle.

If one of the group’s Pokémon faints, that trainer has to sit out for a turn before it automatically gets revived (a smart design choice to keep all trainers actively involved). However, the fainting of each Pokémon triggers the storm above to become more and more vicious. After four faints or ten turns, everyone is booted out of the raid sans rewards.

max raid battles

The Fruits of Victory

Two of the easiest ways to better your odds are 1) Choose a Pokémon with a type advantage going into battle, and 2) Manage who Dynamaxes when. Each trainer’s Dynamax meter grows periodically and, though only one trainer can use it at a time, multiple players can activate it over the course of a raid. It also seems like each raid’s star rating is tied directly to the raid boss’ level, so bringing a generally powerful Pokémon to a lower-level raid is another viable strategy for success.

Aside from the chance to capture the raid boss itself (and some Pokémon are Max Raid Battle-exclusive), winning a raid nets players some very worthwhile rewards. These include everything from EXP candies and berries to nuggets and TMs. It’s not so much of a haul that it hurts the overall balance of the game, but there’s enough to make getting a few friends together and grinding raids for a couple of hours worth it.

max raid battles

Though Max Raid Battles are just a small part of the overall Sword and Shield package, they’ve ended up being a rather fun take on Pokémon’s traditional multiplayer offerings. For as unnecessarily complicated as playing with friends is, there are also a few cool ideas here, like being able to join a raid from anywhere on the map as long as the host is at the raid pillar. There’s some good fun to be had here if you prefer to battle alongside your friends instead of against them.

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