Marvel Puzzle Quest

We've been playing Marvel Puzzle Quest (available on iOS, Android, and Steam) for nearly two years now, and for the most part it keeps getting better and better. D3 Go and Demiurge have taken the stellar puzzle RPG dynamic from D3's earlier Puzzle Quest games and added new layers of strategy with Marvel-themed stories and quest lines.

There's even a social aspect as players can team up in alliances and communicate in private chat rooms.

Alliance chat

If you're just starting out, here are some things you should know to help you learn the ropes and really enjoy the experience:

 

Hero Points for sale

It's free - sort of

While technically "Free to Play," Marvel Puzzle Quest constrains key resources to drive you to spend money. You earn these awesome-looking comic book "covers" for free that deliver different characters and powers.

Roster slots aren't cheap

You build up your roster of characters by winning and unpacking the tokens that randomly deliver these covers. But roster slots - i.e., places to store your characters - cost an increasing number of Hero Points, which can be hard to come by.

You'll get a certain amount just by playing the main story quests, and even more if you participate in Tournaments and Versus events. But make no mistake, if you stick with this game you'll eventually break down and put in $5 or more to accelerate your collection of roster slots.

It would be nice if they provided a price break at $10 - that would be a great tip for a solid game - but it jumps from $5 to $20, and $20 is just a little steep especially when you're starting out.

The game recently became much more generous in granting Hero Points, so $5 may actually be enough these days to get over the "my roster's overflowing" hump.

Oh, and whatever you do, don't spend Hero Points on anything but roster slots. You will never collect all of the game's characters as it is, and wasting points on other things like upgrades and health kits only slows you down and fills your soul with regret.

 

Starting roster

Build solid teams

When you start out, you'll get Iron Man (Model 35) and soon collect Black Widow (Modern), Storm (Modern), and Hawkeye (Classic). Build them up to full strength because together they make a great starter set. Someday you'll sell off all but Iron Man (he's the sole 1-star character worth keeping long-term and the only character you'll need to beat the 1-star challenge in Deadpool's Daily). You'll get through the main story quests fine with these four covers (plus whatever else you pick up along the way): Black Widow's ability to freeze enemies plus Storm's elemental attacks are pretty powerful, and add either Iron Man's power attacks or Hawkeye's strategic strikes to mop up most enemies in the early rounds. After the main story, you'll dive into Tournaments, which last from a couple of days to a week and are best played with an Alliance (more on that in a bit).

By this time, your power trio will probably be Magneto (Marvel NOW!), Storm (Classic), and Hawkeye (Modern). Magneto's purple Polarity Shift attack will give you blue tiles that can be placed to create Critical tiles, which do tons of damage and kick off Hawkeye's devastating Speed Shot attack. Plus the blues can power Storm's even more devastating Wind Storm, which freezes a selected enemy and damages all active opponents. Stack a couple of those, and you can win almost any battle while taking little to no damage.

Eventually you'll develop some good secondary teams - such as Thor (Marvel NOW!), Captain Marvel (Ms. Marvel), and Black Widow (Original) - that you can use when your primary heroes are resting. There are many more great combinations. Experiment to find your own, and share them with us all in comments!

 

Healing characters

Health packs come back

Speaking of resting heroes (and stuff I wish someone had told me when I started), you can also hoard Health packs but it's not recommended. That's because Health packs regenerate over time whenever you're below five of them. So use them to jump right back into the fray anytime your favorite heroes will take more than a few minutes to heal. Health packs are restored every 35 minutes until you max out at 5 - so when they run out you may need to take an hour or so break, or choose your B-team and keep going.

 

Covers expire, tokens don't

Hoard tokens and Iso-8

Initially, you'll be inundated with tokens (which give you covers) and Iso-8 (used to level up your roster) but you don't have to spend it. You can collect 99 tokens before maxing out, so let them pile up! Until you redeem them, they won't expire - just spend some each time you get close to 100.

Once spent, characters will expire in 14 days if you don't find a roster slot for them. If you play tournaments, it's a good idea to hang on to covers you don't have a space for just in case they become Essential (i.e., required for a particular battle, usually one that's easy and delivers better-than-average rewards). When this happens, you may opt to trade a lesser used character or reviled team killer (looking at you, Sentry!) for someone who suddenly has at least short-term worth.

Convert any covers you don't want or need before the expiration date to Iso-8, which does not appear to have a cap. I once saved up 100,000 Iso-8 just to see if it maxed out, and it didn't - at least not there. Perhaps it stops at 999,999, but odds are that you'll never keep that much lying around. Once you have an expansive roster and start playing Deadpool's Daily, any Iso-8 glut you have will be gone in a hurry.

 

Grunts

Know your enemy(s)

There are two types of battles in Marvel Puzzle Quest. You're either fighting Grunts (ranging from mafia to soldiers and even ninjas), who do not make moves, or Characters (sometimes paired with Grunts) who do get moves.

Either way, if you don't know your enemy's powers, you're at a disadvantage. Take the time to explore the enemy's attacks and defenses, and keep an eye on their Action Points (AP) to see when they have enough of a particular color to use a power. If you have a power that saps their AP, you can sometimes use this to your advantage. For instance, when fighting with She-Hulk you can repeatedly use her Green power to reduce the enemy's largest AP stash before an attack can even be unleashed.

If you're fighting Grunts, you don't have to worry about setting up a great 5-in-a-row match for your enemy to steal. You can map out your next move to devastating effect, but you need to keep an eye out for countdown tiles that will wreck your plans. I tend to divide up identical enemies (e.g., two Soldiers paired with a Hitman), taking one of the twins out first so it's easier to determine who owns a particularly nasty attack. Then I can focus on taking that enemy out before his or her attack can go off.

When playing against Characters, you're trying NOT to set up a great next move and hoping that your enemy (whose AI is pretty dumb and misses all but the most obvious matches) sets you up with a great combo.

Finally, there are multi-wave battles that have enemies waiting in the wings to take the place of a fallen comrade. These can have up to 5 stages, so it's a good idea to reserve your best powers until they're really needed. Grunts can often be cleared just with careful matching, letting you save your powers to paralyze Characters before they can even make a move.

At the start of each battle, it's important to take a moment to orient yourself and select the right strategy. I can't tell you how many times I've wrecked a great next move for myself before realizing that I back to fighting Grunts, who could not possibly have taken advantage of it. In multi-wave battles, you need to be prepared to survive a marathon (not a sprint) and anticipate the appearance of overpowered Character enemies by having AP reserved to neutralize them quickly.

Since battles in Marvel Puzzle Quest aren't timed (except when playing in tournaments that are about to end), you can typically plan your next move without the pressure of a twitch game. Use this to your advantage to really evaluate your options when tasked with a difficult battle and a board that has several different potential moves.

 

Alliance Awards

Alliances for the win

Join an alliance to socialize and get free stuff. Your alliance's cumulative score in a tournament earns prizes for everyone in the alliance.

Just be careful - some alliances enforce quotas and will kick you out if you don't deliver. As a busy gamer, you probably don't need that stress in your life. Find or create a group that plays for fun and occasionally kicks into overdrive when a significant group goal is within reach. If you create a group, you may want to make it private so that you don't get random join requests. There is a chat room for each alliance, so random people could lead to random chatter. Our group is full up at the moment but if they lift the 20-member limit, hit us up. (It used to be 5, so it could happen!)

 

Boosts

Team-ups and Boosts, what's the difference?

In the beginning, there were Boosts. They max out at 30 per type, so you can hoard up to a point and then spend them somewhat generously when needed. You typically use them to overcome a tough battle that seems stacked against you by granting bonus damage for criticals, or giving you a leg up with some key AP to power your best attacks or defenses at the start of a battle. Boosts can be stacked for additional power, though they are generally capped to maintain some semblance of game balance.

Then the developers tinkered with the formula, adding Team-ups. These are sometimes won at the end of battles against characters (chosen from among the characters you defeated). You can select them and then use them or not in a battle. Unlike Boosts, which are modify your pre-battle state and are thus burned when you choose them, Team-ups remain in your inventory if they are not needed.

Team-ups are capped at 20 total (they don't stack like Boosts), and managing them can be tricky. You have to go in right before each battle and delete any you don't want, just in case you earn a new one (rather, than, say offering the option to trade a crummy one out at the end of a battle). Also, you can share Team-ups with players in your Alliance. It used to be that you couldn't use them for a spell once shared, but to encourage widespread sharing the developers removed the penalty so you can share up to 5 in a day without losing access to them yourself. Shared Team-ups get a timer that must run out before they can be given again, but you can still use them regardless.

You can mix and match Boosts and Team-ups, but you can only have three different ones active at a time - so choose wisely. Any unused slots are randomly filled from your available Team-ups.

I personally avoid Team-ups except as a last resort to help win a battle that's too close to call but could be lost with one unlucky move. As a result, I have plenty to share but have to frequently prune my collection - keeping only those that are really useful to me in a tight spot.

 

Facebook

The Facebook connection

You don't have to connect your Marvel Puzzle Quest account to Facebook, but there are advantages if you do. First, your game progress is backed up so if you ever have to reinstall, you won't risk losing your roster. Second, you can send bonus items such as tokens, boosts, and Iso-8 to friends who also play. Just be sure to check that your friends are really playing. In Facebook, they look like those annoying help request notifications but they are really bonus items being transferred to your friend's game. But if your friends only linked up the game and haven't played much, they may think you are spamming them.

If you have more than one mobile device, you can use the Facebook connection to link your devices and sync your saves. It's a little harrowing since the interface and FAQs aren't super clear, but it appears that your second linked device will only load the progress from your first linked device. So make sure your primary game is backed up, and then - after you complete the tutorial on your second device - you can go to settings, select Facebook, and Load your first device's progress. After that, your progress should be sync'd after every battle regardless of device. And, alas, no - at this writing there's no way to sync between PC and mobile games.

I personally think tablet is the way to go. The game plays great with a large touch screen. Playing on most phone screens is a nuisance, but it may be a good way to keep up with your game or kill a few minutes (and super villains) while on the go. The Steam game is great too, but you're locked to playing on your computer, which isn't the ideal place to grind while watching TV or riding on public transportation.

 

Changes

Don't get too attached

Major game mechanics in Marvel Puzzle Quest have changed several times over the years, and no doubt will again. Character powers get rebalanced from time to time, so your favorite attacks will lose their punch. Commiserate in your Alliance chat room (if you have one) and then get back in the game. Despite many severe shifts in gameplay, it remains one of the best puzzle games ever. Get over it and keep playing.

 

Deadpool's Daily

The rich get richer

One of the biggest problems with Marvel Puzzle Quest is that when you start out, the deck is stacked against you in Tournaments. You often need Essential characters to get scores high enough to win the Essential character cover being offered as the ultimate reward, so people who missed out last round will generally miss out this round too while people who won last round will get an extra stripe for their rare character.

But it won't always be that way. You will eventually catch up and have a shot.

Deadpool's Daily gives you good odds of winning semi-rare characters and Hero Points with Taco Tokens, so do this as often as you can. You can then earn extra stripes for them (once you have Dat Required Character).

Versus is another avenue for winning rare characters, but you have to pick your battles with care. Also, once you play a Versus battle, you'll get challenged yourself and loses will eat away your rewards progress.

Just hang in there, and eventually you'll find yourself on the receiving end of this game balance inequity. At least some of the time.

And when you're not, well, hopefully you're having fun and won't mind too much.

The Order: 1886Wrapping our PAX Prime 2014 reports is The Order: 1886 - out today for PlayStation 4. One of the more compelling shooters we've laid our hands on, it neatly blends historical fiction with some wicked cool weapons.

Learn about some of the design decisions that shaped this interesting game.

You can download Busy Gamer Nation on iTunes, Zune, or our own RSS feed.

This is at long last the final entry in our PAX Prime 2014 coverage. Next up: We have some surprises in the works, some of which have been on the back burner for a very long time. Stay tuned for awesome content you won't find anywhere else! 

Boo Bunny PlagueBoo Bunny Plague is one of those crazy games that you see on the PAX show floor and either dive right in or run screaming. As usual, we dove in and received a fun interview with the game's audio director and singer/songwriter, Bunny. And, yes, he is the voice of Bunny in the game.

Best of all, you can sample some of his crazy soundtrack - which bounces between rock, rap, and even opera - before plunking down $2 for the game on Steam ($3 if you want the soundtrack and digital comic; hint: you do!). 

You can download Busy Gamer Nation on iTunes, Zune, or our own RSS feed.

This is the penultimate entry in our PAX Prime 2014 reports. Read our full PAX impressions. We're finishing up the editing on our final interview, The Order: 1886.

Rebuild 3: Gangs of DeadsvillePerhaps one of the most family-friendly zombie games, Rebuild 3: Gangs of Deadsville captivated our 12-year-old at PAX. He got a chance to swap strategy with the game's creator, Sarah Northway, while we learned about the series that he's enjoyed at school on various free game Web sites.

Available now on Steam early access, the game is due for a 1.0 release soon and a mobile release to follow.

As always, you can download Busy Gamer Nation on iTunes, Zune, or our own RSS feed.

This is another in our continuing series of PAX Prime 2014 reports. We're finishing up the editing on our last two interviews! Watch for them soon, and read our full PAX impressions now.

Saints-Row-Gat-out-of-Hell-469119-3

One of GrrlGotGame's favorite shooter series is Saints Row, so we made a beeline to the Deep Silver booth to check out the new standalone Gat Out of Hell story expansion. We were both drawn to the visuals of Johnny Gat flying about with demon's wings.

We also heard about Saints Row IV: Re-Elected, a next gen update to the popular fourth installment of the series. In less than 4 minutes, you can get the scoop on what makes these games so damned hot.

As always, you can download Busy Gamer Nation on iTunes, Zune, or our own RSS feed.

This is another in our continuing series of PAX Prime 2014 reports. We're finishing up the editing on our interviews for The Order: 1886 and more - read our full show impressions now, and check back for more podcasts.

That Dragon, Cancer

One of the most emotional podcasts we've ever produced: Our interview with daddy/developer Ryan Green about his forthcoming game That Dragon, Cancer examines why we need shared experiences to release our emotions when dealing with loss.

The game just reached its Kickstarter goal, but there's still time (four days at this writing) to back the game, get a copy at launch, and maybe even provide your own message or artwork to be included in this cathartic creation.

No matter what your choice, we hope you'll spend a few minutes getting to know Ryan and his late son Joel's story. It's an easier journey to make than you might think, and might just change your life.

As always, you can download Busy Gamer Nation on iTunes, Zune, or our own RSS feed.

This is another in our continuing series of PAX Prime 2014 reports. We've also recorded interviews for Boo Bunny Plague, Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell, The Order: 1886, and Rebuild: Gangs of Deadsville - read our full show impressions now, and check back for more podcasts.

http://www.busygamernation.com/podcast/

GrrlGotGame was most excited to see a large Dead Island presence at PAX Prime this year. Swatting down zombies with sharp blades is her life's chosen work, and few games do it as well as Deep Silver's continuing franchise.

Escape Dead Island - out now for PC, PS3, and Xbox 360 - left her cold. The combat we previewed wasn't polished, and she spent most of her time dodging attacks rather than diving in with weapons blazing. Gamewatcher was curious about the story, stealth, and sleuthing but not enough to plunk down $40 for a last-gen release.

On the other hand, Dead Island 2 scratched our collective zombie apocalypse itch nicely. Set in sunny California, the emphasis on co-op at first put us off but the reveal that it's optional and single-player remains a personal choice lessened our concerns. We both enjoyed our time in the game, which is rare when it comes to zombified fare. Preview it now, and look for it in 2015 on PC and next-gen consoles.

As always, you can download Busy Gamer Nation on iTunes, Zune, or our own RSS feed.

This is another in our continuing series of PAX Prime 2014 reports. We've recorded interviews for That Dragon Cancer, Boo Bunny Plague, Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell, The Order: 1886, and more (read our full show impressions and check back for more podcasts).

http://www.busygamernation.com/podcast/

Never Alone was quite the eye-catching platformer at PAX Prime 2014. A young Native American girl and an artic fox battle the elements and environment (playable alone or co-op) to explore themes important to the Native American culture that spawned this story now told in an interactive format.

Dig beneath the surface, and Never Alone is more than a pretty videogame, due out Nov. 18 on PS4, Xbox One, and PC via Steam (with a Mac version also on the way).

The tale of how the game came to be is quite interesting all on its own. In less than 7 minutes, you can learn all about how the Alaska native Iñupiaq art and stories of Kunuuksaayuka developed in partnership between the Cook Inlet Tribal Council and developer E-Line Media delivered this amazing work.

This is another in our continuing series of PAX Prime 2014 reports. We've recorded interviews for Escape Dead Island, Boo Bunny Plague, Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell, The Order: 1886, and more (read our full show impressions and check back for more podcasts).

As always, you can download Busy Gamer Nation on iTunes, Zune, or our own RSS feed.

As you'll know if you read our State of Busy Gaming 2014 piece, we're finally getting into Steam games. (Yeah, late to the party - but not so late that we don't have 400+ titles and some cool recommendations.) One of the side effects of this particular obsession is the extra codes you accumulate when buying irresistible bundles.

So here is your chance to score some great games, some of which we've talked about on the podcast!

Gone HomeShadow ManSystem Shock 2

  • Shadow Man (PC/Mac). Two codes = two winners! This third-person action game was one of our favorite dark titles on the usually chipper and bright N64. Seriously, there's some sick stuff in it - but it's pretty great if you're up to playing through. It was also one of our top nominees for a reboot in an early Busy Gamer Nation podcast.
  • System Shock 2 (PC/Mac/Linux). This is the progenitor to BioShock, and quite awesome. If you haven't played it, here's your chance!
  • The 7th Guest (PC/Mac/Linux) and The 11th Hour (PC/Mac). These games come as a set - so win one, you win them both. While a bit dated by today's gaming standards, the puzzles are fun and the acting is hilariously bad. Listen to our review of the iOS version of The 7th Guest for a taste. The music alone is worth the trip (and it's in our Steam music library so we're guessing it's included).
  • Gone Home (PC/Mac/Linux; Humble Indie Bundle gift code includes soundtrack). Billed by some as a "walking simulator," we'll take this kind of action (or lack thereof) any day of the week. It's compelling storytelling with mood you could cut with a knife.
  • I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream (PC/Mac/Linux). This is in our backlog but it's a classic horror title. You know you're curious!
  • Gunpoint (PC/Mac/Linux). Not scary per se, but a neat action puzzle game.
  • Papers, Please (PC/Mac/Linux). Not so much scary as horrifying. This instant indie classic has you step into the shoes of a customs agent and what you see (and must process) may give you sympathy for people who really do this sort of thing for a living.
  • Monaco: What's Yours Is Mine (PC/Mac/Linux). A heist game best played with friends.

Here's how to enter (and get some bonus entries!):

  • Post a comment here. SAY WHICH GAME(S) YOU ARE PLAYING FOR, IN PRIORITY ORDER. That's all you really need to do. Make sure you use a real email address. (Don't worry, we won't send mails to you unless you win, and it won't show on the site.) You may also want to white list this domain; we've had MANY would-be winners lose out because they never responded to their prize notification! If you use TypeKey/TypePad, be sure your e-mail address will be shared. No e-mail address, no prize.
  • For an extra entry, post a real comment elsewhere on the site. Our ongoing PAX Prime 2014 coverage is a good place, but any post will do. Look around, enjoy the sights and sounds.
  • Tweet this for another bonus chance to win: Win spooky Steam games from Busy Gamer Nation, the original Free Stuff Friday: http://bit.ly/1tYdSfl - Winners selected Sunday! #BGNFSF

We will draw the winners Sunday after 5 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. So be sure to enter at least once by then!

Please don't double post. Your comment might need approval (probably not) and it's very likely NOT to appear until you refresh the page properly (our site has a weird caching thing going on).

We do sometimes give away real prizes (the kind you get in the mail) and unannounced Instant Win prizes. For instance, we have some PAX Prime swag we're compiling into prize packs, and these are always very coveted yet you'll likely have decent odds since we're a reasonably tight-knit community. Also, your activity here might just inspire us to make that giveaway happen. Your sincerity and passion may ignite ours. So give it a little spark!

Here are a few tips since Instant Wins can happen at any time (plus you'll want to know the next time we invoke Free Stuff Friday). 1) Follow Gamewatcher on Twitter. Before we post an Instant Win, we'll give you a fair warning tweet (or the giveaway may be entirely on Twitter). 2) Subscribe to our RSS feed and set it to check for updates frequently.

http://www.busygamernation.com/podcast/

Pig Eat Ball is one of those games you'd probably pass by on the way to seemingly more interesting fare at PAX Prime 2014.

Fortunately for you, we dug below the surface and found that there's more than meets the eye with this interesting party game based on the improbable premise: What would happen if Ms. Pac-man gained weight with each pellet that she ate?

The answer is a surprisingly fun party game that's vying for your love on Steam Greenlight right now. Or, you could just buy it direct and get immediate access to the most recent alpha build of the game - level editor included.

Your call. Also, there's the matter of the vibrating and flashing seatpads we, um, enjoyed at PAX. Listen to the podcast to learn how you might enjoy them too.

This is another in our continuing series of PAX Prime 2014 reports. We've recorded interviews for Never Alone, Escape Dead Island, Boo Bunny Plague, Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell, The Order: 1886, and more (read our full show impressions and check back for more podcasts).

As always, you can download Busy Gamer Nation on iTunes, Zune, or our own RSS feed.

http://www.busygamernation.com/podcast/

Borderlands: The Pre-sequel is 2K Australia's take on the Borderlands franchise, set between the first and second game. At first glance, it's more of the same stuff that made Borderlands so fun - loot, guns, betrayal - but there's a twist.

Now you can play as Claptrap! And this changes everything.

GrrlGotGame is the Borderlands hound in our home, and she adored the brief game demo she played at PAX Prime. Hear all about the game in our brief but illuminating interview and then enjoy one of our most hilarious musical outros! (Yes, it's from a game trailer - but we've re-cut it for maximum effect.)

This is another in our continuing series of PAX Prime 2014 reports. We've recorded interviews for Boo Bunny Plague, Dead Island 2, Never Alone, Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell, The Order: 1886, and more (read our full show impressions and check back for more podcasts).

As always, you can download Busy Gamer Nation on iTunes, Zune, or our own RSS feed.

http://www.busygamernation.com/podcast/

Evolve was a game we almost dreaded playing. We signed up for a game demo more out of obligation - it was a requirement to get an interview - than out of a genuine desire to try it. It looked like so many multiplayer only games we play for a day or so and then avoid.

Boy were we wrong. The game is a deeper rabbit hole than we imagined thanks to the specific hunter roles you need to choose between and the monster specializations that keep you guessing. And, if you don't want to go online, you don't have to. AI players will fill in all of the other roles if you choose. Be a monster and kill everyone, or be a tracker and hunt down the surprisingly hard-to-find creature before it levels up too much.

Best of all, there's a Big Alpha sign-up going on now for a chance to play the game online for a short window starting Oct. 30 for Xbox One and Oct. 31 for PS4 and PC.

This is another in our continuing series of PAX Prime 2014 reports. We've recorded interviews for Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, Boo Bunny Plague, Dead Island 2, Never Alone, Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell, and more (read our full show impressions and check back for more podcasts).

As always, you can download Busy Gamer Nation on iTunes, Zune, or our own RSS feed.

http://www.busygamernation.com/podcast/

Slender: The Arrival is one of those games we checked out at PAX Prime 2014 largely because our 11-year-old son has been begging to play it since he heard his friends discuss it on the playground in elementary school last year.

He won't. Not any time soon. As fans of survival horror and exploration games, we might though. Slender is not gory or super violent, but its chilling antagonist Slenderman may give even the grown-ups nightmares.

Find out how the console versions, released this week, compare to the original PC release. And if you bought the PC version as a standalone or on Steam, you may want to check back where you bought it for some free bonus levels.

This is another in our continuing series of PAX Prime 2014 reports. We've recorded interviews for Evolve, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, Boo Bunny Plague, Dead Island 2, Never Alone, Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell, and many more (read our full show impressions and check back for more podcasts).

As always, you can download Busy Gamer Nation on iTunes, Zune, or our own RSS feed.

http://www.busygamernation.com/podcast/

When GrrlGotGame told me she found this awesome co-op game involving a Chariot, I was skeptical. The last game we really enjoyed playing side-by-side on the sofa was Borderlands, Dragging a wheeled cart around the screen sounded sketchy but proved... really great fun.

Canadian developer Frima, perhaps best known for Nickelodeon tie-in games for kids, seems to have cracked co-op platforming with this little gem. While you can play it through solo, we can tell from our hands-on time that it'll prove much more fun with a friend or loved one to yell at while trying to maneuver the chariot to its final destination.

This is another in our continuing series of PAX Prime 2014 reports. We've recorded interviews for Evolve, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, Boo Bunny Plague, Dead Island 2, Never Alone, Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell, and Slender: The Arrival - among others (read our full show impressions and check back for more podcasts).

As always, you can download Busy Gamer Nation on iTunes, Zune, or our own RSS feed.

Free Stuff Friday - Cannon Brawl

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Cannon BrawlUPDATE (9/19/14): The Cannon Brawl folks sent us some more codes! ReinaPerla (who didn't win before) has received one too. The first four additional commenters to post below and comment on another post will get one.

Twitter posts are optional but feel free to spread the word! No drawing this time, just first come first served.

Cannon Brawl is an indie game we actually missed at PAX Prime 2014, and it's a shame. Because it seems like a pretty advanced real-time strategy game in the vein of Worms and the 1983 classic Artillery Duel.

This $15 game officially releases next Friday (learn more on Steam), but you can win one of two Steam codes to play it early (and for free) on Mac or Windows just by commenting here! You could even play against us in the game's multiplayer mode, if you're up to it - and, yes, you probably are. Go ahead, kick our asses.

Here's how to enter (and get some bonus entries!):

  • Post a comment here. That's all you really need to do. Make sure you use a real email address. (Don't worry, we won't send mails to you unless you win, and it won't show on the site.) You may also want to white list this domain; we've had MANY would-be winners lose out because they never responded to their prize notification! If you use TypeKey/TypePad, be sure your e-mail address will be shared. No e-mail address, no prize.
  • For an extra entry, post a real comment elsewhere on the site. Our ongoing PAX Prime 2014 coverage is a good place, but any post will do. (New podcasts are on the way, so you may want to check back! We're editing a bunch of them now!)
  • Tweet this for another bonus chance to win: Win Cannon Brawl from Busy Gamer Nation, the original Free Stuff Friday: http://bit.ly/1rYZL9d Winners selected Sunday! #BGNFSF

We will draw the winners Sunday after 5 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time. So be sure to enter at least once by then!

Please don't double post. Your comment might need approval (probably not) and it's very likely NOT to appear until you refresh the page properly (our site has a weird caching thing going on).

We do sometimes give away real prizes (the kind you get in the mail) and unannounced Instant Win prizes. For instance, we have some PAX Prime swag we're compiling into prize packs, and these are always very coveted yet you'll likely have decent odds since we're a reasonably tight-knit community.

Here are a few tips since Instant Wins can happen at any time (plus you'll want to know the next time we invoke Free Stuff Friday). 1) Follow Gamewatcher on Twitter. Before we post an Instant Win, we'll give you a fair warning tweet. 2) Subscribe to our RSS feed and set it to check for updates frequently.

Evolve-GolaithIt seemed like PAX Prime 2013 had Kickstarter Fever, while this year it appears that fever has broken. We did see some of the same games - including Neverending Nightmares and Chromancer - approaching completion. We didn't interview anyone actively fundraising this year, so we can't recommend anything new to back: So if you're into that, you're on your own.

But we did check out some awesome big to indie-sized projects coming to your consoles, PCs, and/or mobile devices this year or next. (And a few that are out now!)

This year wasn't a great one for indie press like us. We had a harder time than usual penetrating the PR veil that covers most triple-A titles. You ask to talk to someone in a booth about their game, and they refer you to their PR or community manager. That person may or may not be possible to find over the course of 4 days, particularly when you're exhausted and being pulled 10 different ways. We tried 4 times to speak to someone about Dragon Age: Inquisition, but never could find the elusive approved talker. In addition, it seems that the no cameras policy for canned demos was widely expanded to audio this year (normally audio gets a pass, which is how we brought you Portal 2 (MP3) and Infamous: Second Son (MP3) previews in years past), so we skipped Assassin's Creed Unity (among others) in favor of more accessible titles.

Welcome to PAX 14It's also worth noting that the sheer mass of people at PAX makes visiting all of the games at PAX impossible. In early days, we could do circuits around the show, visiting the booths we liked several times. Now you really have to pick your targets. Last year, while we had a blast, we got locked into appointments for games that sometimes proved disappointing or at least not worth the time investment (some publishers require you to lock in an hour per title for both play time and interviews). We prefer to sometimes just watch the games we don't have time to play and record short, quick interviews. So this tends to be overkill - so we kept our schedule as open as we could. On top of that, some publishers (like Bethesda) had no real PR presence, meaning we couldn't talk to anyone about The Evil Within - which is a shame, since the demo was a disappointment but we have a sense that there may be a really good game in there.

That said, the interviews we wrangled were good and reasonably short, so we should have all of the podcasts out to you much faster this year!

Here are the PAX Prime 2014 games we found noteworthy:

 

Costume Quest 2

Costume Quest 2. This gentle turn-based adventure game is one of our top picks for Best of Show - and a long-overdue sequel to a fantastic game. Everyone's favorite trick-or-treaters must travel back in time to stop an evil dentist overlord (is there any other kind?) from taking away all of the world's candy and cancelling Halloween.

Your adventure will take you to the Louisiana Bayou and New Orleans French Quarter (among other places), collecting new quests and costumes along the way. Choose your active costumes carefully since your combat style is based on your costume. Our new favorite costume: a Thomas Jefferson-esque figure, who has the best powered-up attack of all time. (We won't spoil it - just use it as soon as you can.)

The game has solved two issues with previous Costume Quests. First, speed. The original Costume Quest offered up one costume on wheels, allowing the kids to fly around town. I ended up keeping that costume in constant use purely to get through game in a reasonable period of time. This time, EVERYONE gets skates, so speed is no longer a consideration when choosing costumes.

To help keep things challenging for more advanced players, the game also introduced a Candy Corn costume that makes the character takes damage but doesn't attack. Use this costume for one of your crew to increase the combat difficulty and see the incredibly funny Zen zingers that explain what's going through the Candy Corn's mind.

The Candy Corn abides in October 2014, just in time for Halloween.

 

 

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! Our former Game of the Year IP returns with even more Wub-Wub - and a playable Claptrap character that is likely to cause some serious divisions among co-op players. Claptrap is the adorable/annoying single-wheeled robot that has guided vault hunters through past adventures. He comes equipped with his own action skill, an unstable program called "VaultHunter.EXE." You might rain down a pirate ship's worth of cannonballs at your enemies, or... send everyone in your party into an uncontrollable fit of bouncing on the moon. Who knows? Like I said, this may break up some friendships. Or marriages. (Sorry, honey - but you know I loves me some Claptrap. Wub. Wub.)

As for the rest of the game, it's Borderlands. The story explains the rise of Handsome Jack, the star of Borderlands 2. But really, it's all about the shooting and looting. Go it alone or bring a friend; just remember to save your buddies (real or NPC) when they inevitably start to die.

The cel-shaded insanity continues on October 14, 2014.

 

Chariot

Chariot. Our favorite games this year were off-the-beaten track and - for the most part - surprisingly non-violent. (I know, right?) The Chariot team describes their game as a "humoristic physics-based couch co-op platformer," but really, all you need to know is that it's delightful and fun for two players. The game follows a princess and her fiancé as they drag her father's funeral chariot through ancient caves filled with looters and bats.

At first glance, it looks like your basic puzzle/platformer hybrid. Each player has the ability to tether him/herself to the chariot to push, pull, and lift the wagon wherever it needs to go. Every level requires significant cooperation; all it takes is one missed button press to send everyone tumbling back down the hill.

And the King really hates it when you drop him.

That's right, Dad is dead, but his spirit didn't get the memo... and he really, really hates his daughter's taste in men. This becomes clear very quickly, as the ghost of his royal highness takes humorous potshots at his daughter's intended. Perhaps a successful run to the graveyard will change Dad's mind. We'll find out when it rolls onto your favorite platform later this year.

 

Dead Island 2

Dead Island 2. GrrlGotGame is a huge Dead Island fan, and this was by far her most anticipated game of the show. Gamewatcher, not so much - though he ultimately enjoyed the demo more after taking a fruitful detour and killing the most zombies in a 10-minute period!

Dead Island 2 continues the tradition of outstanding trailers that have almost zero to do with the game (at least what we played). At E3, it was revealed that the zombies were coming to Venice Beach. The game itself is set in the Los Angeles area (and apparently other parts of the state - one of the logos has an outline of the Golden Gate Bridge), but the areas we saw were definitely more city than beach.

The gameplay hasn't changed significantly: There are zombies and tasks, but now you can choose if you want to actually do any of the offered missions. More disturbing (to us), it appears there is strong co-op focus at play here. We found it extremely jarring and annoying to have random people just appear in our past Dead Island games, and we always turn that functionality off. The developers said that we'd still be able to turn off unannounced visitors or restrict it to friends only, but it's not clear how important this is to enjoyment of the game.

It's worth noting that the game engine appears significantly improved, and the weapon upgrade system has been streamlined. You still need blueprints and items, but now, you don't have to find a workbench to combine weapons. Time won't stop while you're upgrading your weapons, so the devs recommend having a friend watch your back while you do it. (There's that forced co-op again!) That said, it's not impossible to find a nice, quiet place to do it. Say, the top of a school bus. Join in the fun (or please don't, if it's our game!) when Dead Island 2 washes ashore in 2015.

 

Escape Dead Island

Escape Dead Island. Deep Silver jumps on the cel-shaded bandwagon with this somewhat bizarre entry in the Dead Island universe. The demo didn't really say much, but it appears that you play someone left behind on an island during the zombie apocalypse. GrrlGotGame took an excruciatingly linear path through the beach/trees to yell at someone who may or may not really exist, while listening to the spirit(?!) of someone yelling in her character's head.

Oh, and she totes killed a couple zombies, too.

This one didn't do much for GrrlGotGame (it's looking more like a Telltale game, where story trumps action, and thus may be more in Gamewatcher's wheelhouse). We'll see what the voices in our head say when Escape Dead Island releases November 18. Preorders get access to the Dead Island 2 beta - which is odd since the only overlapping platform is PC.

 

Evolve

Evolve. Also known as the "You can be the monster" game from E3. GrrlGotGame played first as a Goliath and latera medic on the human team, and she didn't really get into either class. Gamewatcher, on the other hand, played a medic and was very successful at it (much less so as a Tracker - he let down his team by not finding the monster quickly, before it had leveled up a couple of times.) That said, flying around and unleashing Hell from above has its moments.

GrrlGotGame prepares to play as the monsterThis was where our lack of co-op experience and practice with the game really hurt. With single-player campaigns, you have a chance to get your skills up before going into an online melee. In this case, we were playing against people who knew what they were doing... and they took us down hard. GrrlGotGame did last longer as a monster than a medic, however. A bit more prep and clarity on how to use the controls before diving in would have been very helpful.

Prepare to release the Kraken (and the Goliath, and 1-2 more TBA monsters) when Evolve comes out in February 2015.

GrrlGotGame prepares to play as the monster

 

The Order: 1886

The Order: 1886. This highly anticipated PS4 exclusive attracted a lot of attention at E3 earlier this year, and with good reason. The Order takes players back to Victorian-Era London and hands them super-powered weapons (fictionally) created by Nikola Tesla. You play Galahad, a member of an elite order of knights charged with fighting a centuries-old war against a powerful threat.

The game has some lovely anachronisms, from the Tesla-powered energy guns to a female cohort. One of the cooler weapons disperses powdered thermite into the air around your enemies, which then ignites into a fireball when you shoot a flare at it. Realistic for the time? Not likely. But it sure is fun!

The environment remains much more firmly rooted in reality. The designers clearly did their research, exploring the Whitechapel area of London today as well as delving into the history books for reference. But let's not kid ourselves, folks. The heart of the game remains a third-person action/adventure/shooter. It just happens to be one with some extremely cool style.

The demo level we played was slightly confusing due to a lack of instruction. We presume the developers picked a later level to ensure players saw some real action. We could have used a few hints about combining attacks to get the desired effects. That said, we both had some fun stumbling around semi-blind.

Assuming the demo represents the final product (and they add some in-game training), expect to have a jolly good time when this releases on February 20, 2015.

 

Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell

Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell. Saints Row fans know that Johnny Gat was a very, very naughty boy. It appears his actions caught up with him after his storyline ended, because Johnny now resides <echo voice>IN HELL</echo voice>. In other words, Deep Silver thought of an excuse to take their way-over-the-top franchise straight to Hell.

Everything you expect from a Saints Row game is here, and more. There are new weapons based on the Seven Deadly Sins (no, you really can't begin to imagine) and guest appearances galore from some of history's most reviled humans. Plus Johnny has earned his devilish wings, allowing players to make some gorgeous sweeps through Hell. The new location, imaginative weaponry and addition of winged flight make this a welcome addition to the Saints Row franchise.

Prepare to heat things up on your favorite platform when Gat Out of Hell releases as a standalone digital game on January 27, 2015 and as part of the retail bundle Saints Row IV: Reelected for Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

 

Tales from the Borderlands

Tales from the Borderlands. The Borderlands franchise gets the Telltale Games treatment, which means lots of conversation and cut scenes with a little combat mixed in. This one breaks with the traditional Telltale approach of generally following one person, and neatly tweaks the story based on player actions.

The tales take place on Pandora after the events of Borderlands 2. While it helps to be familiar with the story and characters, it's not required to play. (You will be spoiled on some Borderlands 2 details, to be sure.) The story unfolds through multiple playable characters, including scheming Hyperion employee Rhys and con artist Fiona.

The demo was a bit too heavy on the cut-scenes for GrrlGotGame's taste (she's a run and gun gal), while Gamewatcher was quite at home. She almost missed a few dialog trees because frankly, she was a little zoned out (it was our first stop of the first day of PAX). Not bored, just waiting for something to happen. (She's still waiting for Telltale to adapt "My Dinner with Andre" into a game.) Once the combat started, it was the standard "Push LEFT!" "Now quickly Push UP!" combat you see in any Telltale game. Not terrible, just not her style.

The demo ended right about the time it started getting interesting, which is a good way to build a demo. We're both intrigued by the multiple character approach, and very curious to see what they do with Fiona.

Plus we all love The Wolf Among Us, so even GrrlGotGame is willing to give this game a chance when it comes out in late 2014.

  • Releasing on: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and PC - plus likely (though unannounced) for iOS.
  • Sorry, no interviews were available.

 

Boo Bunny Plague

Boo Bunny Plague. A fantastic original soundtrack and an Adult Swim sensibility drives this "animated musical adventure through dimensions of time and space-time space." You play a robot Bunny who becomes annoyed with his father/creator and does what any bratty kid does: He takes off, leaving a path of destruction in his path. Expect a ton of 1980s touchstone references (RoboCop, Say Anything) and some extremely adult language.

The gameplay is essentially third-person destruction. Your weapon of choice is a thrashing guitar with which to pummel your foes, apropos of the original metal track that accompanies your mission. The soundtrack reportedly bounces around time and styles, which should keep things interesting. Bonus points for the coolest booth freebie of the show, an original Boo Bunny comic by Hack/Slash creator Tim Seeley.

Rock out with your bunny tail out now on Steam (released on September 4, 2014, just after the show).

 

Sunset Overdrive

Sunset Overdrive. We don't get into multiplayer much, but really wanted to try out this game's grind system - it reminds us a bit of one of our all-time favorite games, Jet Set Radio Future, but with guns. The only option was an hourlong line to play a 10-minute melee battle for a fabulous prize (well, a pin) if you were the top player in a group of 7.

The game rewards you for grinding and doing tricks, so runners and gunners may stay alive but they won't get the top scores. Gamewatcher mostly alternated between grinding and shooting (occasionally pulling off both at the same time) and managed to snag the winning position (and the prize) after three quick waves of enemies.

While we're more likely to enjoy the story mode, we might be tempted to jump online occasionally to shoot some mutant enemies with friends when this releases in October.

  • Releasing on: Xbox One
  • Sorry, no interviews were available.

 

The Evil Within

The Evil Within. So Resident Evil mastermind Shinji Mikami has developed a very bizarre Silent Hill-ish survival horror game that should have our names written all over it. This was one of the few games that we voluntarily waited almost two hours to see, and we were deeply disappointed. A brief video that displayed Xbox controls was provided to teach us how to play the demo... on a PlayStation 4. Then, we were dumped into Level 9 with no direction or even idea what to do. 30 mostly painful minutes later, we left wondering where this could have gone so very, very wrong.

To be fair, we both felt the same way about publisher Bethesda Software's Dishonored demo at a previous PAX - and that ended up being one of our favorite games that year. So we may still give The Evil Within a chance.

But it will have to work hard to get into our heads when it releases in mid-October.

  • Releasing on: Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and PC
  • Sorry, no interviews were available.

 

Panda PandamoniumCascade

Panda Pandamonium and Cascade. Big Fish Games has developed a Mahjong game as dated as the awful '70s and '80s music blasting from their booth. Panda Pandamonium for iOS is basically a Mahjong game with a goal: Match the two Panda tiles, thus freeing them from... being tiles on the Mahjong board. Don't get us wrong; we love matching games (including Mahjong), and we totes love Pandas, too. May they live long and happy bamboo-filled lives. But these South Park rejects didn't add anything to the game whatsoever. Maybe if the designers had spent more time designing the rest of the tiles into something comprehensible, we would care. Instead, we had a hard time figuring out what matched what on the board. The Boston/Cyndi Lauper train wreck of a soundtrack didn't help any.

Also showing on the floor: Cascade, a match-3 game that was a whole lot better when it was called Bejeweled.

  • Available now: iOS only
  • We skipped the interviews on these.

 

Pig Eat Ball

Pig Eat Ball. At every PAX, there is a game so bizarre, so out there, that we honestly don't know what to say about it.

This is that game.

Pig Eat Ball is a local co-op party game that challenges players with a series of fast-paced levels, each with its own unique goal. It starts pretty simple: Chase after tennis balls on the screen and eat them. Your avatar gets a little chunkier with each bite, making it difficult (and sometimes impossible) to navigate through the maze. Just to keep things interesting, your opponents can ram you from behind, causing your character to vomit up skanky green balls. And yes, you gobble them back up to keep your score up. (Barfing is also a valid strategy to make it through tight corridors. Yes, it tacitly encourages bulimia.) Later levels include challenges like "make a sandwich" (seriously!) and eat the stars, which is complicated by some prickly stars that pop your fat piggy.

Days later, we're still not sure exactly what to think of the game. Eating vomit balls isn't our cup of tea, but our 11-year-old sure loved it. The game was also a huge hit with three young adults who played before us. Maybe we're just old. There's also the complication that it's a PC only game, and gathering around a work laptop isn't exactly a party-friendly space. Perhaps if it gets ported to consoles, we'd be more inclined to commend it.

There is the (optional) accessory that gave the game an added dimension: DIY vibrating chair pads that rocked our world whenever someone attacked us, which was actually pretty often. Every bump to our character's behind gave a nice, therapeutic butt massage while lighting the chair up like a Christmas tree. We don't know if we would buy this game, but I would definitely buy that peripheral (the devs promise to share the instructions on how to build your own, if you're handy with Make-style projects).

Check it out and consider giving it a Steam Greenlight vote today. Launch window is early 2015.

 

That Dragon, Cancer

That Dragon, Cancer. We skipped this booth last year but decided to dive in for a closer look this year after spying the eye-popping visuals.

This is an unusual game with a heart-wrenching twist: The young boy, Joel, who inspired it died earlier this year. The game, however, lives on and provides unexpected solace and release for those in similar situations. It's less a game and more a series of emotionally charged play spaces that encourage you to explore and experience what it's like to be a parent of a child undergoing cancer care. Gamewatcher spoke to Ryan Green, Joel's father and the game's lead developer, and then played a lake scene which included a duck's eye view of being fed by the boy. Another station nearby put you into the role of the father trying to comfort his inconsolable son in a hospital room.

Having recently lost a family friend to a related dragon, the feels came crashing down. And that can be a good thing. The game's creator hopes that others will find catharsis and peace by sharing in his son's brief but meaningful life when the game is completed.

 

Never Alone

Never Alone. There's almost always a title - usually a puzzle game - that pushes the visual boundaries of what we expect from our hobby. Never Alone was instantly striking; we were drawn to it from across a crowded room and spent a lot of time just watching someone else play. You explore an icy Alaskan landscape as a young Iñupiat girl and her artic fox companion, solving puzzles while exploring tales inspired by native folklore. Naturally, the fox can access areas that the girl cannot - and vice versa - and success will unlock stories told by the tribe that inspired the game.

We'll be living the legends together when Never Alone launches on Nov. 4 (delayed to Nov. 18).

 

Slender: The Arrival

Slender: The Arrival. Already available for PC, Slender - a licensed game featuring the Internet mythical and supernatural villain Slender Man - is making its way to Xbox 360 and PS3 later this month. If Gone Home caught your fancy and you want some more spooky wandering in your life, this might scratch that itch.

We played a small section of the game that took us, with little explanation or exposition, into a dark spooky mine where we had to flip on some generators to open up a new area. Like we really wanted to go deeper into the mine with Slender Man wandering around?! But we did it anyway and were rewarded with a few skin crawl-inducing flash cuts that definitely made us jump. They served it up in a dark booth, so we skedaddled at that point... so that other people in the lengthy booth line could have their turn! Yeah, that's why.

This strikes us as a great couch game, so yeah, count us in when it releases in late September.

 

Rebuild: Gangs of Deadsville

Rebuild: Gangs of Deadsville. This one is for our 11-year-old son, who recognized it was a sequel to a resource-management zombie game he'd found and played on his Web browser last year. He proclaimed it to be great and we plunked out for a pair of Steam codes right there at the show. It's a bit like State of Decay but with a similar look and feel to Farmville and turn-based fighting.

The game is out on Steam Early Access now and the deluxe edition contains desktop versions of the two earlier games - or you can play them online here: Rebuild and Rebuild 2. iOS and Android versions are in the works but will likely lag behind the PC version.

Maestros panel at PAX Prime 14After several interviews with videogame musicians (and a passion for game audio, which we incorporate into our podcasts as often as possible), we attended and recorded the PAX Prime 2014: Maestros of Videogames Panel for our son (a budding composer) and any other fans of game music and audio who might want to learn from some of the pros.

Here's a quick rundown of the panel members:

  • Emily Reese (moderator) - host of Top Score on Minnesota Public Radio
  • Sascha Dikiciyan - Borderlands, Mass Effect 3, and Dead Rising 3
  • Darren Korb - Bastion (interview and game review) and Transistor (interview)
  • Jesper Kyd - Assassin's Creed, Borderlands, and Hitman
  • Oleksa Lozowchuk- Dead Rising 2 and Dead Rising 3
  • Martin O'Donnell - Halo series through Reach (music review) and Destiny
  • Boris Salchow - Sunset Overdrive, Ratchet & Clank, and Resistance: Fall of Man

Download the PAX Prime 2014: Maestros of Videogames Panel (MP3; 50MB). For a limited time, you can download this "Extra" from our Busy Gamer Nation podcast feed on iTunes, Zune, or via RSS.

http://www.busygamernation.com/podcast/

Costume Quest was a thoroughly charming game of the last console generation, and its sequel - the predictably named Costume Quest 2 - is well on track to become one of favorite titles of 2014.

Learn what changes have been made to the winning formula of turn-based combat, empowering costumes each with its own special attacks and powers, and deep exploration. For instance, you can now play as a Candy Corn and the game is actually better for it!

This is the first salvo of our PAX Prime 2014 coverage. We've already collected interviews for Evolve, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, Boo Bunny Plague, Never Alone, and Slender: The Arrival with more on the way. We'll also post our game impressions for many more titles than we could ever podcast about as soon as we can catch our breath to write it all down!

As always, you can download Busy Gamer Nation on iTunes, Zune, or our own RSS feed.

http://www.busygamernation.com/podcast/

We attended Geek Girl Con lin Seattle last year and were pleasantly surprised to find these gaming gems:

  • Project Spark, which releases officially Oct. 7, can be downloaded in public beta for Xbox and Windows 8.1 now. It's free to play, and your creations will carry over - so feel free to dive in.
  • Zhurosoft has its own free-to-play thing going on. They make iOS battle games including the Pokemon-inspired Monster Kingdom 2 (still in development) and the strategy title Kingdoms of Zenia. Learn what these games are about and how they work, and then go grab them for free at the iTunes store: the original Monster Kingdom and Kingdoms of Zenia: Dragon Wars.

As always, you can download Busy Gamer Nation on iTunes, Zune, or our own RSS feed.

This concludes our podcast coverage for, ahem, last year. We'll do our best to expedite this year's PAX Prime coverage (starting this weekend!) and create some new, original features. Stay tuned!

PrizesYes, it's been a long time since we've had a Free Stuff Friday. Which is funny, since we actually coined the term back in 2008! But the long drought has ended because we are DROWNING in codes.

Here's what you can win:

  • Ratchet and Clank Future: Quest for Booty on PS3 - great standalone digital only game. (1 winner)
  • $10 in Xbox digital currency courtesy of Harmonix - they'd love it if you used it for songs for Rock Band or Dance Central, but you can use it for pretty much anything on Xbox 360 or Xbox One. (24 winners)
  • Gears of War 3 Thrashball Cole Plushie avatar item for Xbox 360 - from PAX Prime several years ago. We checked, and the codes still work! (4 winners)
  • Threes game for iOS - this popular twitch math action puzzler was free at Starbucks awhile back, but if you missed out on the code we have some extras. (2 winners)

Here's the deal:

  1. First come, first served.
  2. You need to post two comments on our site: Post which prize you want here first (so we know what to send you!), and then a real comment elsewhere. Some suggested articles are below. Make it real, not weak forum banter like "gamez r kool, can I have my <prize>."
  3. One prize per person with the exception of the Cole Plushie codes. If you want both $10 in Xbox money and a plushie code, you can have it - as long as we still have 'em both to give.
  4. If you want to help us out, post on Twitter something like "Free Stuff Friday is back! Act fast to get some great gamer goodies at Busy Gamer Nation: http://bit.ly/1zaohlP"

Here are some recent articles you might want to check out and comment on:

Or search around the site. When you comment, we'll get a notification and will check it out as soon as we can (and approve it if it's being held for approval). And then dispatch your prize requested below (while supplies last).

The Fine Print

Prizes will be delivered via email, so you must USE A VALID EMAIL ADDRESS WHEN YOU REGISTER. (Don't worry, we won't send mails to you unless you win, and it won't show on the site.) You may also want to white list this domain; we've had MANY would-be winners lose out because they never responded to their prize notification! If you use TypeKey/TypePad, be sure your e-mail address will be shared. No e-mail address, no prize.

Note that unless you're an authenticated poster who has been active on the site and marked as trusted, your comment will NOT appear immediately. It will go into a queue for me to approve, which I'll try to do several times a day. Do NOT double-post (though feel free to comment as much as you want!).

We do sometimes give away real prizes (the kind you get in the mail) and unannounced Instant Win prizes - and with PAX Prime coming up, this is increasingly likely! Here are a few tips since this can happen at any time. 1) Follow Gamewatcher on Twitter. Before we post an Instant Win, we'll give you a fair warning tweet. 2) Subscribe to our RSS feed and set it to check for updates frequently.

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