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Machinarium dev's beautiful bug game, Botanicula, on iPad May 1

Botanicula lands on iPad on May 1, after hitting PC and Mac in 2012. From Machinarium developer Amanita Design, Botanicula is a point-and-click puzzler and exploration game told from the perspective of five adorable bug friends.

The tiny creatures must outrun and outsmart a barrage of parasites creeping around their treehouse – there's one seed left and the fearsome fivesome must save it from the evil invaders. Life on a small scale is just as dramatic as life on large land.
[Image: Amanita Design]

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed goes free on iOS, Android

Sega's franchise-spanning mascot racer Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is now available as a free download on iOS and Android following its latest update.

Released earlier this year at $4.99, the mobile version of Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed adapts a majority of its content from the game's previously released console and PC ports, and launched with Shenmue's Ryo as a playable character. The game retains its microtransaction-based approach to progression after its free-to-play shift, with additional characters, tracks, and higher difficulties available as in-app purchases.

The newly updated mobile version of All-Stars Racing Transformed improves Bluetooth controller support and overall stability, and introduces replay-sharing via Everyplay. The next update, due to launch on April 29, will add Disney's Wreck-It Ralph and Metal Sonic as playable characters.

[Image: Sega]

Omni VR treadmill gets $3 million in seed funding

Following Virtuix's announcement earlier this month that its virtual reality treadmill will arrive in July for its early adopters, the company revealed this morning that it received seed funding. Virtuix received $3 million to "expand production and distribution of the Omni," the $500 platform that has players strapping in to a harness and wearing special shoes to run, walk and jump using their real-life legs in games. The seed investment round was led by Tekton Ventures and Maveron.

One of the other investors onboard with the Omni is Radical Investments, a venture capital firm founded by Mark Cuban. Virtuix took a trip to the entrepreneurial ABC reality television series Shark Tank, which Cuban stars on, in an episode that aired in December. In it, Cuban pointed out that Virtuix's Omni is "pretty much based around Oculus Rift" and that "as Oculus Rift goes, you guys go."

Virtuix valued its idea at $20 million, which Cuban and the rest of the cast didn't buy into. "I could see you creating 20 million in sales, 25 million in sales with this, but you're competing just like headsets are going to be competing," he said. "You haven't told me that there's a way to get to 50 million in sales." Given Facebook's recent acquisition of Oculus VR for $2 billion, which was cleared by the FTC this week, Cuban now appears to see more hope for the Omni. Aside from private investors, the other groups that funded Virtuix's efforts this week are Scentan Ventures, Scout Ventures and StartCaps Ventures.
[Image: Virtuix]

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Help fund an oral history of EVE Online

Andrew Groen, a games journalist whose work has appeared on such prestigious outlets as Wired and Ars Technica, wants to demystify CCP Games' epic space opera EVE Online, and he needs your help to do it.

For the past six months, Groen has been gathering information and conducting interviews with EVE's most prominent community members, with the goal of compiling his research into a lengthy account of the past decade of EVE Online's existence. For most, EVE Online is a game that only registers when word spreads of a massive space battle or a particularly dramatic bit of interstellar intrigue leads to the loss of thousands of real-world dollars, but Groen hopes to crack open the game's thorny exterior and make it more accessible to the average person, while also building the first detailed history of the virtual universe. "I'm writing this because there is simply no way for people to learn the history of EVE, and it's getting more difficult every day," Groen writes.

Those worried that Groen's book will be a long-form fluff piece devoted to making the game and developer CCP Games look good should rest easy. Groen claims to have spoken to CCP, and the studio agrees that it should have no oversight over his work. Of course, that also means that CCP will not be funding this book, so Groen has turned to the online masses for the $12,500 he requires to complete the project. Though the fundraiser launched just this morning, Groen has already attracted plenty of support, which bodes well for the success of the tome. For more information and to toss money into the ever-expanding pot, pay a visit to Kickstarter.
[Image: CCP Games]

Goat Simulator to rampage across the UK in boxed release

The only thing more fun than a barrel full of monkeys is a box full of goats, and that's exactly what Coffee Stain Studios has planned for the citizens of the UK.

Koch Media, Goat Simulator's UK publisher, broke the news this morning, saying that the physical version of the Internet's favorite antisocial livestock simulator will reach retailers on May 23. No additional content is planned for the physical release, but buyers will receive a box emblazoned with the face of Satan's most cuddly terrestrial envoy. Notably lacking from the announcement was any word on what price point might be attached to the physical release.

In addition to word of this physical version of Goat Simulator, developer Coffee Stain Studios has detailed the game's upcoming 1.1 patch with a video that is sadly exclusive to Facebook. The highlight, both of this clip and likely of your day, is goat parkour. If those two words didn't immediately send you scrambling for the "Play" button, you're probably dead. Joystiq offers its condolences.
[Image: Coffee Stain Studios]

Joystiq Streams: Giveaways and The Wolf Among Us [UPDATE: Relive the stream!]

[NOTE: Part 2 of the stream archive is after the break.]

Joystiq Streams is already the stuff of legend, so it's no wonder we're drawn to Bill Willingham's long running Fables comic book series. Like its supernatural stars Snow White, Bigby Wolf, and Cinderella, we, too, are nigh-on immortal and in constant combat with evil despots forcing us to live exiled in New York City. That last part isn't true. What is true is that we'll be playing the very first episode The Wolf Among Us on Joystiq Streams alongside its creators and we'll be giving away heaps of codes for both that episode and Steam season passes.

Tune in right here to this post or the Joystiq Twitch channel at 4PM EST as we stream The Wolf Among Us: Faith alongside Telltale Games producer Chris Schroyer and actor Adam Harrington, the voice behind Bigby Wolf.

Richard Mitchell will play, Susan Arendt will chat, and in the Twitch chat feed Anthony John Agnello will be giving away three codes for Episode 1 on Xbox 360, three codes for the episode on PlayStation 3, and three full Wolf Among Us season passes for Steam. Codes are first come, first serve so get up in there quick.

Joystiq Streams broadcasts live every Tuesday and Thursday at 4PM EST at Twitch.tv/Joystiq.
[Images: Telltale Games]

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MGS: Ground Zeroes platform-exclusive content free for all in May

Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes' console-exclusive content will soon launch as free DLC across all available platforms, Metal Gear Solid series producer Hideo Kojima revealed this week on the Kojima Productions podcast.

Ground Zeroes premiered last month with the Classic Snake skin and the "Deja Vu" mission on PlayStation platforms, while the Xbox 360 and Xbox One versions featured the "Jamais Vu" mission starring Metal Gear Solid: Revengeance's cybernetic Raiden.

The date "5/1" accompanies the announcement, though it's currently unknown whether this is a worldwide DLC release date or a launch date for the DLC in Japan.

[Image: Konami]

Take an Expedition into Titanfall's War Games map

Following an initial reveal earlier this month, developer Respawn Entertainment has now graced us with a handful of screenshots and solid information on the War Games map included in Titanfall's upcoming "Expedition" DLC pack.

Unlike the game's other maps, War Games isn't real. That is, it's even less real than the video game's other maps as it takes place within the same simulator players strolled through during Titanfall's training mission. As a result, the developers were able to craft imaginative structures with a focus toward acrobatics without having to worry about things like design congruency and sensible architectural layouts. This virtual setting also allowed Respawn's level designers to incorporate level battlefields for the game's titular giant robots, free of debris that might distract from the task of blowing apart opposing robots.

For more, pay a visit to the Titanfall website where designer Jason McCord offers his take on War Games. This map, along with two others, will debut in the Expedition DLC at some point in May, at a price of $10.

Report: Facebook head sought Project Morpheus demo before buying Oculus VR

Prior to spending $2 billion on a recent surprise purchase of Oculus VR, Facebook's boy king Mark Zuckerberg took Sony's Project Morpheus headset for a spin, according to PlayStation executive Guy Longworth.

"I wish he bought ours," Longworth said during a presentation at the ongoing Games Marketing Summit. Longworth recalls confusion over why Zuckerberg would request a demo of the Project Morpheus headset, though following the FTC's decision to allow the Oculus VR acquisition, it all makes sense. "All the folks at Oculus have got big smiles on today," he added.

Despite missing out on that massive pay day, Longworth claims Sony is still very keen on the future potential of virtual reality. "If you think about VR, not just in terms of gaming, I think wearable technology is a huge trend that's going to continue," Longworth said. "I think that being able to have experiences that are truly deep and immersive - that it somehow makes you feel you are there - is something that people want."

"If you could really deliver that in the future, that would be huge," he added, while making no mention of how Sony intends to deliver on this "huge" potential.
[Image: Sony]

New Nintendo eShop releases: NES Remix 2, Child of Light, Yoshi's Island GBA

This week's eShop update is a big tease. NES Remix 2? Not out 'til tomorrow. Child of Light? Next week, on April 29. At least you can play Mario Golf: World Tour today - in a demo.

As for what's launching today, there's the last of April's Game Boy Advance games in Yoshi's Island: Super Mario Advance 3, and a few other bits and bobs too - as ever, we've got the full list of new releases after the break. Finally, there's also a new two-week sale on Joindots' games, including Secret Agent Files: Miami and 3D MahJongg.
[Image: Ubisoft]

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Hitman Go review: The game of death

Hitman Go is the one thing previous games in the series have never been: subtle. In earlier outings, directing Agent 47 through each gruesome assassination occasionally required some subtle thinking. Do I hide in that dumpster? Do I dress up like a clown and sneak through the kitchen? But no matter how quietly or sneakily you offed your targets, you were still playing as a bald man with a barcode tattooed on the back of his head. "Ave Maria" plays every time you garrote some hardened criminal. Hitman games, from the PS2 era up to 2012's Absolution, are silly, taxing, and deft at giving you options, but they're about as subtle as Godzilla's Tokyo vacations.

Square-Enix Montreal's new iOS and Android spin on the series, meanwhile, is softly smart and marvelously complex despite its simple exterior. On the face, Hitman Go seems to be all style and no substance, devoid of the chewy, strategic flexibility offered by the console games. Rather than mimic the polygonal 3D style of Hitman as Square-Enix has done with other iPad-ized console/PC spin-offs like Deus Ex: The Fall, Square-Enix Montreal presents Go as a board game, complete with wooden boards and tiny plastic figures that look like tokens straight out of a Risk box. The motif is appealingly sleek, replacing the gaudiness of I/O Interactive's Absolution with primary colors and white space. Even the menus where you select which level to play – the initial release comes with five "boards," the last of which is actually based on Hitman: Blood Money – look hot, with the little mocked up board game box inviting you to paw at the touch screen.

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Bloodrayne Betrayal coming to PC next week, Japanese tease was port

Last week's tease by Arc System Works for something BloodRayne related was simply a razz for the Japanese localization of BloodRayne: Betrayal. The "BRCS" from the teaser site stood for BloodRayne: Crimson Slayer, which will be the game's name for the region. The solid action game from WayForward will be available in Japan on May 1 on PS3.

In the west, BloodRayne: Betrayal will be available on Steam for PC on April 30 with full controller support. In our review we said Bloodrayne Betrayal has "style, substance and butter-smooth combat."

Gone Home and Papers, Please sweep Games For Change Awards

The Games For Change Festival hosted its annual awards ceremony on Wednesday night, honoring socially conscious games in three categories: Most Innovative, Most Impactful, and Best Gameplay. Game of the Year, the fourth and final award, was given to a game that embodied all three categories. Some 140 games were nominated, and a panel of experts in gaming, media, education and philanthropy whittled those selections down to eight finalists.

Lucas Pope, though not in attendance at the awards, dominated the stage. Papers, Please, Pope's brutal game about playing a border crossing guard in the fictional communist nation Arstotzka, won both the Most Innovative and Best Gameplay awards. Speaking with Joystiq via email after the awards, Pope shared his thoughts on why his game seems to resonate so strongly with players.

"It puts players in an unfamiliar position and asks them to make difficult decisions with no easy answers," said Pope. "The subject matter is unique enough to get people interested, so the challenge for me was to hook them early with the core gameplay, then build on that with an interesting story."

Most Significant Impact, the award given to games about social issue that also encourages players to develop empathy and respect for the subject, went to Electric Funstuff's The Mission US: A Cheyenne Odyssey. Mission US simulates life for the Northern Cheyenne tribe as it confronted the institution of Native American reservations in the 19th century.

The Games For Change Game of the Year award was given to The Fullbright Company for Gone Home, their divisive first-person adventure. Steve Gaynor and Karla Zimonja accepted their award in a brief video message which, as the ceremony's host put it, may have been the first ever selfie acceptance speech.

Papers, Please and Gone Home both received year-end accolades from Joystiq and numerous other outlets. Lucas Pope offered some insight into why games that address social issues are gaining traction amongst players.

"I think the changing audience is related to generations and technology," explained Pope. "I grew up playing games my entire life so they're a natural form of expression and entertainment for me. I don't necessarily look to games for only straight up fun times, and I'd say most of my generation is the same way. At the same time, the tools and resources to create games have exploded in the last five years. It's much easier now to make smaller games that reflect personal experiences. With more games like this being made, there's naturally going to be an audience to play and enjoy them."

Yoshi Wii Remote Plus coming to Europe alongside Mario Kart 8

Following the royal unveiling of Princess Peach's Wiimote Plus, Nintendo of Europe is making sure all four Mario Kart 8 multi-players can have a mascot-themed controller to hand. When the racer launches on May 30, Europeans can get both the Peach controller and a new Yoshi one, and join them up with the Mario and Luigi Wiimotes already out.

Stateside, Nintendo of America released the Peach Wii Remote Plus earlier this week, but this is the first we've seen of the Yoshi controller. As things stand, Americans will be forced to limit Mario Kart 8 to three-way couch multiplayer with Luigi, Mario and Peach remotes, and that's not on. Surely Nintendo doesn't expect the fourth player to have a regular Wii Remote Plus, or - gasp - one of the controllers another player has? That's just obscene.
[Image: Nintendo]

Soulcalibur: Lost Swords issues make game unplayable, 'launch delayed'

Free-to-play fighter Soulcalibur: Lost Swords may be available in the West now, but players are complaining that the game is completely unplayable. In a sort of rehash of last year's Sim City issues, Lost Swords requires players to connect to its servers when launching and playing the game, despite being a single-player experience. Sure enough, that's the point players can't get past at the moment. Instead, the PS3 game eventually produces an error code message and then sends players back to the title screen. Player reports on Twitter, Facebook and the PlayStation Blog indicate the problem is widespread, although it does seem that some players have managed to access and play the game.

We tested it out this morning, and while we managed to register a profile and create a character, we weren't able to access Lost Swords gameplay across several attempts. The only mode the game let us select was Quests, and when trying to load up the initial tutorial quest, it produced an error code for a lost connection to the server, and returned us to the title screen. Lost Swords also wouldn't let us load it without signing into PSN beforehand - it's not clear why exactly that's been implemented, although a key feature of Lost Swords is being able to download other players' characters to use as tag-in allies in battle.

For its part, Bandai Namco America has acknowledged a "technical issue that has delayed the launch of the game" - for the record, Lost Swords remains available to download on the PlayStation Store, and the game itself makes no note about a delayed launch.

"We have discovered that the issue requires a resolution across multiple parties and therefore our efforts to remedy the issue is taking longer than anticipated." the publisher said last night on the Soulcalibur Facebook page. "Currently we are working feverishly with a key partner to implement a solution in the shortest amount of time possible."

[Thanks, JC!]
[Image: Bandai Namco]

Evolve gameplay is all about the hunt

2K Games and Turtle Rock Studios launched an interactive trailer this morning for Evolve, the four versus one mulitplayer game coming this fall to next-gen consoles and PC. There's about an hour of content in the video above and if you want more you can check out our video preview.

Mario Kart 8 Wii U bundles unveiled for Europe

Nintendo confirmed the long-rumored Mario Kart 8 Wii U bundle for Europe today, but there's no word yet if it's skidding along to North America. The Premium bundle packs in the 32GB black Wii U with the racer and all the usual accessories within. It's launching alongside the game on May 30, priced £250 in the UK according to Nintendo's store.

For £50 more, players can align with one of Nintendo's plumber brothers in Mario and Luigi themed Wii U packs (check out the Luigi one above). The fraternal packages bundle in your choice of red or green hats, GamePad protectors, Wii U wheels and non-additional Wii Remote Plus controllers, as well as a game guide. The Mario and Luigi bundles look to be limited to the UK and exclusive to Nintendo's online store.

Mario Kart 8 brings the long-running racer series into HD splendor for the first time. As our video preview shows, it also features new elements like zero-g racing, piranha plant items, and everyone's favorite assortment of monstrous offspring, the Koopa Kids.
[Image: Nintendo]

XCOM: Enemy Unknown gets acquainted with Android, out now

XCOM: Enemy Unknown is out now on Google Play, commander. The new Android port is priced $10/£7.14, and according to a message from XCOM HQ, an advance on the Amazon Appstore is expected "soon."

Despite claiming the lives of many of our best friends - or at least a bunch of soldiers named after them - we ranked Enemy Unknown as our second-best game of 2012. The good news: Firaxis transitioned the console and PC release into a "slick, portable package" on iOS, and hopefully that'll pan out the same way on Android.

New Ace Attorney trailer showcases characters, courtroom, cherry blossoms

The first trailer for the new Meiji era Ace Attorney shows us the stars of the 3DS game and their more classic courtroom backdrop. There's not any gameplay to go on, but we do get a good look at Ryuunosuke Naruhodo, ancestor of one Phoenix Wright, and the lady who's likely his assistant in floral dress, Mikatoba Susato.

According to Court-Records.net, Susato is an "ideal Japanese woman" who's a lover of foreign detectives and a progressive dreamer. Knowing the Ace Attorney series, there's probably a bit more to her than that.

Capcom only just announced the game for Japan, so no surprise that there's no word on the turn-of-the-20th-century adventure turning out for the West. In the interim, you can dream via a translated version of the new trailer.
[Image: Famitsu]

Steam Midweek Madness: Portal 2, Octodad: Dadliest Catch

Portal 2 and Octodad: Dadliest Catch have a lot in common: Both are born from an independent developer concept; both feature a clueless collection of non-playable characters; and they each explore the absurdity of the human condition. Now, thanks to a Midweek Madness sale, both are available for a discounted price on Steam.

Portal 2 is available for $4.99, 75 percent off its regular price (or $8.74 for two copies for co-op adventures. Octodad: Dadliest Catch can be added to your Steam library for $9.99, 33 percent off (or $13.33 for the game and soundtrack; which, shockingly, does include the Lionel Richie classic "Stuck on You"). Each sale ends at 10am Pacific on Friday, April 25.

In other deal-related news, the newly released music exploration game FRACT OSC is available for 10 percent off ($13.49) until 10am Pacific on April 29.
[Image: Young Horses]

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