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    Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark Announced

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    Activision is no stranger to hit game franchises, but one of its more recent surprises has been the High Moon Studios developed shooters based on the Hasbro’s hit Transformers toy line.  Both Transformers: War for Cybertron and Transformers: Fall of Cybertron were big hits with gamers.  Now the publisher is looking to score a trifecta with the announcement of Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark, currently in development for current consoles and PCs.

    For fans, there are a few unexpected twists and turns in the Autobots’ upcoming road trip.  First, Rise of the Dark Spark may carry on the legacy of the previous Transformers games, but it will be doing so without High Moon Studios at the helm.  Instead, Rise of the Dark Spark’s development is being spearheaded by Edge of Reality, the studio behind SEGA’s The Incredible Hulk and the recently released free-to-play shooter, Loadout

    Even more surprising, Activision has announced that the new game will somehow tie the Cybertron game universe into the Michael Bay movieverse.  No details have been released on exactly how this will happen.  The story could somehow lead up to the beginning events of Bay’s original Transformers movie and then pick up after or during the events of the upcoming Age of Extinction flick.  Another possibility (used more than once in the Transformers comic books) is that some sort of cosmic event will bring the two distinct universes together.  Activision’s wording in the press release announcing the new game could certainly be construed that way:

    “This third-person action adventure video game goes beyond the movie by uniting the universe of director Michael Bay’s TRANSFORMERS movies with the ever-popular Cybertron universe. Players will choose from over 40 playable characters from the two different universes as they battle to secure the Dark Spark.”

    Transformers

    Regardless of how Rise of the Dark Spark attempts to bring the two Transformers properties together, fans of Fall of Cybertron and War for Cybertron should still feel right at home, as the new title looks to follow the same formula as the previous entries.  Once again, players will switch between Autobots and Decepticons over the course of the single-player campaign. Rise of the Dark Spark will also feature the return of the fan-favorite multiplayer mode, Escalation, which pits teams of up to four players against wave after wave of increasingly difficult enemy forces in a brutal survival mode.

    Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark is currently slated for a June 2014 release on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U, 3DS, and Windows-based PCs.

     

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    The Insidiousness of Skylanders

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    Don’t get me wrong. I love Skylanders. A little too much, actually. I literally have (er, I mean my kid has) Skylanders everywhere. Giants, SWAP Force torsos and bases, the original lineup of figures and maybe five portals for at least three different game systems clutter up my living room and bedroom and have crept, like an invasive lichen, into all the corners of my home.

    I’ve always thought the concept was a brilliant capitalist ploy by a gaming company. Most of the time, you buy a video game for a one-time cost, and – except for DLC – that’s pretty much it till the sequel comes out. Oh sure, there’s always merch you can get from somewhere, but that’s really optional and I’m mostly unmoved at the prospect of shelling out money on cardboard Minecraft heads.

    But Skylanders has a built-in extra mechanism for getting us to buy stuff, with all those figures that actually get used in the game – and at this point, there are a lot of them. And every fall when the next game comes out, I resign myself to just pouring out the entire contents of my piggy bank into Activision’s bottom line. I’m not the only one: last February, sales of Skylanders topped the $1 billion mark. That was just after the second Skylanders installment, Skylanders Giants, won the 2012 holiday season. I can see why Disney has jumped on the bandwagon with Disney Infinity. Nintendo’s Pokemon Rumble U will also follow suit in 2014, and Hasbro’s Telepods has given Angry Birds Star Wars II a boost.

    The Skylanders games themselves are quite fun – I describe them to game-savvy parents I know as “Diablo for kids,” and I play them with my eight-year-old son (when I have time, which is not at all lately). He eases me through the hard parts. Skylanders SWAP Force is currently the only game we own for the Xbox One.

    What truly bothers me about Skylanders isn’t all the money I’m spending on toys, or that it’s clearly just another way to get money out of kids and their parents. Or that I can probably expect a brand-new game and set of characters to collect in 11 months or so.

    It’s that I, a perfectly unassuming over-40 suburban mom with plenty on my plate, change personalities when Skylanders come around. I don’t consider myself particularly obsessive, but all of a sudden I find myself desperately searching for that elusive and rare Skylanders color variant on eBay and standing in line at GameStop before opening on the off-chance of getting a store exclusive. I check websites to find out what’s coming out when, and I strategize for optimal shopping times. I’ve been known to rearrange my work hours in response to an e-mail alert. Heck, I’ve forced myself to go to both Wal-Mart and ToysRUs (both retailers I would be happy to avoid for the rest of my life) in order to locate exclusive Skylanders.

    And even then, with my own limited time and resources, I probably will never have the definitive Skylanders collection in hand. What annoys me is that I am brought to the level of fanatic adolescent boy in my search for video game peripherals that most moms only vaguely know about. And they live perfectly normal lives! Oh sure, they might be doing some hard searching for that new Furby or whatever else is the must-have toy this year. It’s all for the kids, right? But in general they’re happy doing last-minute Christmas shopping while I go questing for unusual Skylanders every time I get a hint there’s a new shipment coming in someplace.

    Skylanders, I want my life back! Is that so much to ask?

     

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