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Give that spider a McSmack.

Commercialization in games is a controversial subject. As the medium has attracted more mainstream appeal, it is inevitable that it’ll be considered as a potential marketing vehicle. Nowadays, we bemoan the fact that endless product placement appears in AAA titles, but it’s hardly a new occurrence. Back in 1992, McDonald’s – considered by many to be the de facto face of unrestrained consumerism – lent its likeness to several video games, the best of which is arguably M.C. Kids.

Being a platformer originally for the NES released in the wake of Super Mario Bros. 3, many dismissed it as a lacklustre attempt to wedge in on the Italian plumber’s turf. Indeed, there are superficial similarities, such as a world map and collecting coins, albeit in the guise of the McDonald’s “M”. However, those who looked past its branding and apparent unoriginality quickly found a surprisingly playable chunk of platforming goodness.

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Footsteps resounded in the halls and recesses of the Sinistry of Games as Oo_HPxHG4life_oO hurried along the corridor, the flickering images of pre-rendered “in-game” trailers playing on the surrounding screens dancing on his face. Clutched in his hands was a tome, the result of a long study by videomancers in the field.

His hands trembled, and for good reason: this tome would shake the very foundations of game development going forward. It would prove even more impactful than It’s DLC All the Way Down: Methods for Content Compartmentalisation, greater even than The Real Winner is Guns: Lessons for Makers of Cute Indie Platformers from E3.

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About that Doug TenNapel guy… you know who I’m talking about, right? The same dude who brought the world Earthworm Jim? Yeah, him. He’s a fellow with some strange ideas, isn’t he? Oddball characters and offbeat humour are his specialties, so it’s not too surprising that a few of his works flew under the radar of mainstream appeal. Today we’ll be looking at The Neverhood, one of TenNapel’s efforts which graced the world way back in the Windows 95 era in the form of a point-’n’-click adventure game.

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Don’t bother him with details.

Ever since George Lucas decided to retcon the Star Wars continuity, prequels have been all the rage. Some attempts have been more successful than others: compare Star Trek: Enterprise and Hannibal Rising to, say, Smallville, and it quickly becomes apparent that prequels are a hit-or-miss affair. On the gaming side of things, The Legend of Zelda is the biggest culprit when it comes to endless retconning, but fans can hardly fault the series since they love it so much. With regressive storytelling being so risky, it’s no wonder companies like Valve opted to ditch prequels entirely and mainly resort to exploring backstory to flesh out their scenarios. It’s therefore been up to fans to take up the mantle of fully imagining a pre-GLaDOS Aperture Science facility in the aptly-named Portal: Prelude.

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Admit it: the name alone perked your interest. I mean, how can you ignore a game with “flatulent rebellion” in its title? It has the potential to be a money magnet that every kid will want to get just to offend their parents, whilst the older of us indulge our inner juveniles. It’d be great if there was a great game to go with the toilet humour, but as you’ll soon see, our expectations have been somewhat flushed.

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Oh hi! I kind of enjoy these little features despite them being sporadic by nature; they’re also really a means of getting the word out on some games that might have flown under the radar for whatever reason. In this particular entry we’re talking waaaaaaay under the radar. Perhaps only under my radar because you’re already up to your tits in excitement for this game after having seen it when it first appeared nearly TWO DAMN YEARS AGO.

The space simulator is making a bit of a comeback – which is something that RedTide and I are particularly excited about. Wings of Saint Nazaire is another to keep an eye on. Interestingly, the game has been around and in development since before Star Citizen even became a thing on Kickstarter. While Star Citizen sits with an ever-inflating budget and a large team behind it, Wings of Saint Nazaire is more demure: it’s being developed by three guys in their spare time. Don’t let that fool you though, because Wings is looking wonderful. Any game that describes itself as being “in the vein of Wing Commander and X-Wing” automatically gets my full attention.

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In the July issue of NAG, RedTide uses half a puppy, a wet rag and a bag of elastic bands to create a flying submarine which has no business being called a submarine in the first place because if you put it in water it dissolves almost instantly. We do extensive scientific research to discover the best shampoo for washing feet. Somebody accidentally leaves the bath tap on overnight and floods our office rainforest. And we rudely discover that skydiving with penguins isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Oh, and Evolve. Evolve happens.

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The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II takes place in Borgovia, a land where gothic meets geek and dark creatures are met with darker puns. It’s an action RPG in the tradition of Torchlight and Diablo, with a baroque style of its own. It’s my first real outing with the inimitable young monster hunter Van Helsing and his wise-cracking, ass-kicking ghost companion Lady Katarina, having played the first game only briefly. And, despite an incredibly slow start, balance issues and a couple of niggly bugs, Van Helsing II is a fun romp for the price.

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Early Access. Now there’s a concept I’ll never understand as it relates to video games. Okay, I get the logic: you buy the game before it’s finished so the indie developers can afford to make it in the first place – but personally, I only want to buy finished products.

I’ve heard that the other benefit is that it gives you a say in the game’s development – although from what I’ve seen, that translates into some developers collecting all your suggestions, bug reports and complaints and then diligently ignoring them. Still, I decided to dip a toe into these murky waters as a personal experiment a while back. The title in question: an interesting looking survival game called Sir, You Are Being Hunted.

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Destiny First Look Alpha_20140613213159

Perhaps you did as well? You did? Great! Let’s talk.

Last week, Bungie threw open the gates to an early access alpha preview of upcoming shared-world shooter Destiny. There has been, in case you missed it, a tremendous amount of hype about this game. It is, after all, the first game Bungie has released since 2010’s delightful Halo: Reach.

I don’t need to give you background on the subject; you can find more information about Destiny over on this link that will take you to two pages worth of Destiny articles we’ve written here on NAG Online. Alternatively, you can check out Pippa Tshabalala’s cover feature for this month’s edition of NAG Magazine.

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