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NHL 2K faces off on iOS, Android today

The mobile return of NHL 2K takes center ice today on iOS and Android, 2K confirmed to Joystiq. Announced last month, the game is the first in 2K Sports' hockey series to launch in four years since NHL 2K11 for Wii and iOS. The "complete and portable All-Star NHL experience" costs $7.99 and will receive live roster updates as the hockey season carries on.

Developed by Visual Concepts and Virtuos, NHL 2K includes 2K's trademark multi-season My Career mode (which WWE 2K15 will also feature in its own way) as well as a quick Mini-Rink three-on-three mode. Players can also participate in asynchronous turn-based shootouts with one another or take their favorite teams through a full NHL season. NHL 2K also includes a Winter Classic outdoor arena as well as a Free Skate mode for players to practice their skills.
[Image: 2K Sports]

Skylanders Trap Team review: Broccoli Guy's unjust desert

Skylanders' success is borne of equal parts solid game design and marketing savvy. Its central conceit – buy small plastic figurines in order to summon in-game characters – is instantly appealing for kids, and its Gauntlet-styled action-RPG gameplay makes it a guilty pleasure for adults.

The franchise's "toys to life" mantra, despite its potential for audience exploitation, rewards dedicated fans with bonus content and unlockables that mirror the size of their toy collections. There are now hundreds of Skylanders toys to collect, but to date, the series has maintained a delicate balance that ensures a fun experience both for hardcore collectors and for casual fans.

Skylanders Trap Team, the fourth major entry in the series, is the first Skylanders game to upset this balance. Trap Team still offers a fun journey at its core, but longtime fans will be disappointed to find out that they need to purchase several new figures in addition to an expensive starter set in order to explore the game to its fullest.

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Hearthstone's first expansion will add more than 100 cards

A forthcoming expansion for Blizzard's mobile and PC CCG Hearthstone will add more than 100 new cards for players to collect, Polygon reports.

Hearthstone's first fully fledged expansion follows up on the recent launch of Curse of Naxxramas, a single-player add-on that introduced new bosses and a handful of exclusive cards. Production director Jason Chayes told Polygon that the expansion's new content will roll out in waves, to preserve the game's pacing and to ensure accessibility for newcomers.

"One of the things that we spend a lot of time talking about is pacing," Chayes said. "Not just the pacing of the game as it is, but pacing of the rollout of new content. We really want to make sure the pacing is great not just for seasoned Hearthstone players but for new players coming into the game too."

Chayes notes that further details regarding Hearthstone's expansion will be announced "very soon."

[Image: Blizzard]

Assassin's Creed: Identity creeps onto iOS in AU, NZ

With no warning, Ubisoft has launched Assassin's Creed: Identity on the Australian and New Zealand iOS App Stores.

Despite being a mobile game, Assassin's Creed: Identity is modeled after its console counterparts, only with touchscreen controls in place of a gamepad. It's not as graphically impressive as its predecessors and the gameplay has been stripped down, but if you're looking for a quick stealthy murder fix while waiting for the bus, Assassin's Creed: Identity might scratch that homicidal itch. As with most modern Ubisoft mobile games, Assassin's Creed: Identity relies on microtransactions. A time limit counts down during gameplay, and once it hits zero, the only way to earn more time is to either turn off the game and wait or spend real-world money to purchase Abstergo Credits.

According to MCV, Assassin's Creed fans in other regions will be able to play Assassin's Creed: Identity when it goes global in early 2015.
[Image: Ubisoft]

Pokemon TCG Online out today for iPad in North America

An iOS adaptation of Pokemon's official Trading Card Game has hit the iTunes App Store in Europe and Australia, and will be available as a free download for iPad owners in North America later today.

Pokemon TCG Online is a deck-building competitive card game that features characters and settings culled from Nintendo's long-running Pokemon series. The game offers ranked multiplayer tournaments in addition to head-to-head battles against online opponents, and cards earned in the app carry over to linked Pokemon Trainer Club accounts, allowing players to resume their progress in the desktop version of the game.

Today's release follows up on Pokemon TCG Online's recent soft launch in Canada, kicking off a worldwide release across several regions. Pokemon TCG Online requires an iPad with Retina display, so make sure you meet the minimum requirements before downloading.

[Image: The Pokemon Company]

Galaxy Trucker board game raises shields on iPad



Galaxy Trucker, the Czech Games Edition-published board game from designer Vlaada Chvatil, has made its way to the iPad. Like the board game it's based on, Galaxy Trucker on iPad lets you build space crafts from strange components, dodge dangers in space and fight off aggressors, all in "a quest to become the trucker with the most cosmic credits at the end of the game."

The iOS game can be played via a turn-based pass and play mode on a single iPad, online against up to three other players or versus AI personalities of varying difficulty in either a real-time or turn-based mode. For the first two weeks of its availability, Galaxy Trucker will be available at a discount ($4.99 USD/€4.49 EUR).

Galaxy Trucker began life as a 2-4 player board game published in 2007 by Czech Games Edition, and is currently distributed by Rio Grande Games. The game has been nominated for a number of awards, including numerous 2008 Golden Geek awards from BoardGameGeek. It was selected in 2008 as an official Spiel des Jahres (German Board Game of the Year) recommendation.

[Image: Czech Games Edition]

Hearthstone in real life is beautiful, but complicated

Ever wonder what it would be like to feel the virtual cards from Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft in your hands? Well, Chinese bootleggers have you covered, friend. Website Games in Asia recently discovered and played a physical version of Blizzard's digital card game, and the results were ... well, let's just say that being a digital game has its advantages.

"What would be a thirty-second turn in the digital game took up the better part of five minutes here. But most heinous was the set-up time," Games in Asia reports. "Thankfully the bulk of the work doesn't need to be repeated once you've set the game up once, but it still took close to two hours the first time before we could even start playing."

The reason for such lengthy playtime seems to be that the physcial version has far more moving parts, icons and tokens to keep track of. Games in Asia called it a "fun novelty." We don't know about that, but those cards sure do look nice in the real world.
[Image: Blizzard]

Pokemon TCG Online app deals to Canadian-type Pokemasters

Canadians looking for a card battler beyond Hearthstone can search iTunes' deck for Pokemon TCG Online, The Pokemon Company's free app that hosts both player-vs-computer and online Pokebattles.

In Pokemon TCG Online, players can unlock cards, earn booster packs and build custom decks as they accumulate spoils from battles, all of which are tied to a Pokemon Trainer Club account. Newcomers will find support in the app's tutorials, though they'll face the same question for their starter decks that so many routinely face in the Pokemon series: water, fire or grass?

In order to play, Pokemasters will need to match or excel the base hardware requirements of an iPad 3 or iPad mini with Retina display. Hopefully Pokemon TCG Online's soft launch will lead to an iOS debut in other territories soon, but if you need a more immediate way to play a few battles, there's always the version for PC and Mac.
[Image: The Pokemon Company International]

Device 6 dev Simogo politely teases The Sailor's Dream

Knowing that its fans would be wondering what's become of The Sailor's Dream after Simogo - the studio behind the elegantly crafted mobile hit Device 6 - first mentioned the game, the developers have written an explanation.

"We'd like to explain a bit about the reasoning for us being so quiet about the project – because it's been a very deliberate choice from our side," states the blog entry. "We have a lot of fun features and elements in The Sailor's Dream, which we believe are unique, and exciting. And as much as we'd like to shout about how exciting we think they are, we've made a (tough!) decision to not talk about them before the release."

Why? According to the blog entry, the developers at Simogo don't want to rob their fans of the wonder of discovering the game's quirks for the first time. They don't want to explain each last facet before players can see it for themselves. Still, the studio is not heartless. It hears the cries of fans yearning for more information, and has responded with the one-minute video found beyond the break.
[Image: Simogo]

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China bootlegs Hearthstone cards into the real world

Blizzard has yet to release Hearthstone cards outside of their native virtual playground, but where American corporations fail, Chinese bootleggers are more than happy to step in.

Games In Asia has a lengthy report on a knock-off Chinese Hearthstone game, though "knock-off" doesn't properly describe the item. It would be more accurate to say that the bootleggers took the basic tenets of the Hearthstone virtual game then did their best to translate those ideas to a more traditional board game environment. As you'd expect, the artwork and most of the gameplay is swiped directly from Blizzard, but Games In Asia claims that legit assets can't save bootleg Hearthstone from the pitfalls of having so much cardboard to manage. "If playing this physical version (and watching it be played) taught me one thing, it's this: the digital game is incredibly good at streamlining."

We aren't about to link to a site selling counterfeit goods, but Games In Asia claims that those of you willing to track down this weird piece of pop cultural ephemera should expect to pay about $50 for the game. Alternately, you can play the original version of Hearthstone on an iPad, PC or Mac at no cost.
[Image: Activision Blizzard]

Joystiq Giveaway: 12 Skylanders Trap Team Legendary Starter Packs

Bet you thought we were done after Destiny! Nope. Joystiq is all about doling out the gaming goodness. We're shifting away from the go go grim gun fantasias for our next big giveaway, though! This time, it's all about action figures.

Joystiq is giving away 12 Skylanders: Trap Team Legendary Starter Packs, three each for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Wii U, and for the first time in the series, a tablet version of the game that is feature complete.

Every Legendary Starter Pack comes with that console's version of the game, the new portal, two Skylanders figures, two traps, sticker sheets with secret codes, posters, and trading cards. What's more, every one of our 12 winners will also get a random assortment of Skylanders Mini figures, standard figures, and a lucky few will also get deluxe Trap Master figures as well.

All you have to do to enter is "Like" Joystiq on Facebook using the widget below between September 26 and October 10, and also be an American or Canadian citizen over the age of 13. You can extra earn extra chances to win by following us on Twitter and Twitch.tv/Joystiq.

Full prize list and giveaway rules after the break.

Joystiq Giveaway: 12 free copies of Skylanders Trap Team
[Images: Activision]

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Indie Fund goes for artistic award-winner Gorogoa

Gorogoa is heralded for its intricate, hand-painted art and unique approach to puzzle gaming, aspects that have earned it the top prize from the Good Game Club in 2013 and an award for Excellence in Visual Art from the 2014 IGF. These have also helped make Gorogoa the next game to receive support and financial assistance from Indie Fund. With the Indie Fund backing, Gorogoa is due out on PC and Mac in early 2015, with a mobile launch to follow.

Gorogoa is the first major release from developer Jason Roberts. On the surface, the game appears to be a straightforward point-and-click puzzler, but it becomes more complex as players pull scenes from one panel into the others, crafting tightly woven stories as they go.

"Gorogoa is just jaw-droppingly beautiful, and this is especially remarkable because it's one person doing the programming, design and artwork," Indie Fund partner Aaron Isaksen says. "If this was a children's book it would win the Caldecott Medal. The gameplay is also quite intriguing; the connections that you make between locations, objects, and visuals is deliciously non-linear in a way we don't experience in the real world."

Download a demo of Gorogoa on the game's official website.
[Image: Jason Roberts]

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Fruit Ninja to see major overhaul in next mobile update

Hit produce-gutting action game Fruit Ninja will soon see a major update across iOS and Android platforms adding several new gameplay elements and unlockables, developer Halfbrick announced this week.

"The team has thrown away the tired menu and UI designs, ensuring the steps between playing, equipping new gear, and using social features are all streamlined," Halfbrick said in a recent statement. "Now, almost every item will have a unique effect on gameplay, which has effectively broken the score ceiling and added an exponential amount of depth and strategy to slicing."

The update allows players to pair unlockable Blades and Dojos for various game-altering effects, similar to the gameplay structure adopted by the studio's endless runner Jetpack Joyride. The new "Great Wave" dojo spawns large groups of fruit during each session, for instance, while the Autumn Blade summons a screen-clearing tornado after players slice a pineapple.

Fruit Ninja's update is slated to launch in October.

[Image: Halfbrick]

Goat Simulator gets 100,000 sales on iOS, Android

Coffee Stain Studios has sold more than 100,000 copies of Goat Simulator across Android and iOS, after launching on those platforms five days ago. That's not baaah-d. Sorry, we really rammed that joke in there, didn't we? We kid, we kid.

"It feels really amazing that so many people like our game!" designer Armin Ibrisagic writes on the Coffee Stain blog. "We're also really happy that we can now reach out to even more goat fans, and that people without a computer can now also enjoy the life of being a goat!"

In terms of updates, Coffee Stain is currently focused on squashing any crash bugs on mobile. The studio is aware of the issues on Android devices listed here. "While we realize you might be super curious of our future plans, the truth is actually that we don't plan much ahead at all [....] But after a couple of weeks we'll see how it goes! Hopefully we'll be able to give you more information then."

Goat Simulator hit "almost 1 million" sales in August, and Coffee Stain recouped the game's development costs within ten minutes of launch on Steam (on April 1, of course).
[Image: Coffee Stain Studios]

Project Scissors is a spiritual successor to Clock Tower

Nude Maker, a Japanese developer led by Clock Tower series creator Hifumi Kouno, has begun development on a new horror-focused franchise. According to the studio's press release, Project Scissors is meant to be a spiritual successor to Clock Tower, and will involve Masahiro Ito, creature designer for the Silent Hill series, Takashi Shimizu, director of the Ju-on films, and other "well known talents in the Japanese game industry" that will be announced later on.

In Project Scissors, a luxurious cruise ship has a murder mystery problem. Once enough of the crew fall victim to the killer, the ship is essentially adrift at sea, leaving passengers to share an inescapable space with whatever is keen on knocking them into the afterlife. Solving the mystery is the player's focus, although the increasingly-difficult goal of not dying is of comparable importance.

Project Scissors will eventually welcome aboard iOS, Android and Vita owners, but a release date and a glimpse of the game itself are currently as elusive as Project Scissors' killer.
[Image: Nude Maker]

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