We know almost nothing about the "South Park" game, in development at "Geometry Wars: Galaxies" developer Doublesix Games, for Xbox Live Arcade next year.

A little digging around, however, has lifted noteworthy details on "South Park."

One, it will be the first game published under the Xbox Live Productions label, Microsoft's new first-party partnership initiative for XBL Arcade content.

Two, "South Park" will be a strategy game, according to Xbox.com. That doesn't tell us much, except that worries of a sequel to Acclaim's not-so-acclaimed "South Park" first-person-shooter can probably be put to rest.

For the record, I actually liked that game.

Microsoft made the "South Park" announcement at E3 last month at a press conference they said didn't have room for Bungie's next "Halo" game, so they must consider it pretty important. Are you looking forward to it?

'Braid'I would have cheated while playing Xbox Live Arcade game "Braid" by now if the game's developer Jonathan Blow hadn't discouraged his players from doing so. His official walkthrough for the time-shifting side-scroller spoils no solutions to the game's puzzles and instead exhorts players not to cheat:

All the puzzles in Braid are reasonable. They don't require you to do anything random; they don't require guessing. They don't require trial and error. The solutions tend to be simple and natural. They flow directly from the rules of gameplay in each world.

Why would I have cheated if he hadn't written that?

It's partially my fault: I often play games in a rush, ready to try the next few games in my queue. If I'm vexed in a game I'm enjoying -- as I was in "Braid" World 2 and World 4, I want to get solutions quickly so I can advance to the end. This, I admit, is a poor reason. I should be chastised. But...

It's partially many game developers' fault: For decades game developers have designed puzzles that do "require guessing" or don't "flow directly from the rules of gameplay." How did we ever know how to walk through the repeating maze-square of the first "Metal Gear"? How do we know in any "Final Fantasy" that the solution to our problems is in the local vicinity (as it is in every "Zelda" dungeon) and not in the farthest reaches of the map in some place to which we must backtrack?

Game designers haven't played fair since I started playing games. They still don't, as I discovered this weekend deep in "Siren: Blood Curse," where I encountered a boss who automatically killed me even if I ran past him. Why? Because I hadn't first backtracked through the level to do something else the designers wanted me to do. I used a walkthrough to get past that.

So that's why I cheat so often when playing games. That's why I peek at the walkthroughs. All I needed was a game developer to promise he was playing fair. (And wouldn't you know it: I solved all of Worlds 2 and 4 two nights ago.) But it's too bad Blow had to write that to keep me on the straight and narrow path of puzzle-solving. It's too bad the reflex to cheat has been so strong. I'll shoulder some blame, but only some of it.

Next: "Braid" world six is on tap...

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“A Higher Standard” — Game Designer Jonathan Blow Challenges Super Mario’s Gold Coins, “Unethical” MMO Design And Everything Else You May Hold Dear About Video Games

'Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2' - King Mode
The new "Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2" for the Xbox 360, the latest obsession for high-score-obsessed gamers who own Microsoft's system, repairs two problems its creators had with its predecessor. And it is setting the stage for a half a dozen more games.

During a 20-minute interview with Multiplayer last week, a pair of the game's developers at Bizarre Creations revealed some of the secrets of "Retro Evolved 2"'s creation, answered complaints about the game's Pacifism mode and revealed at least some of what was cut from the game -- and why.

The new game had been development for a while, they told me. That wasn't the plan.


'Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2'A friend just shot me a link to an article at GameStooge regarding the allegedly "broken" gameplay in "Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2."

The article's author, Jonah Falcon, says that Pacifism -- the very mode I just praised a day ago as the best part of the new Xbox Live Arcade game -- is broken. He writes:

The problem is pretty simple: the odds are too stacked against you. For one, the gates themselves are somewhat deadly - the orange ends will kill you. Right there, the game fails. In a survival arcade game, your benefactors cannot be partly deadly. When you’re rushing towards a group of gates - which rotate, by the way - it’s actually a bad tactic because sure as shootin’, you’re going to die. Not good when there’s a wall of enemies bearing down on you. In a fast-paced arcade game, being forced to think rather than react obliterates the entire experience. I think on my feet, but when you continually get punished for being clever because one idle spinning gate just happens to zonk you, you become frustrated and worry more about your allies rather than your enemies, which by any definition is counterproductive.

I am frustrated by the same things the GameStooge writer is, but I don't know if that makes the mode broken. What do the rest of you "GWRE2" players think? (Just a wild guess but I don't think the person who posted this insane clip on YouTube would agree.)

Read the full complaint at GameStooge: FEATURE: Broken Gameplay in Geometry Wars 2

'Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2' LogoIf I was able to be one of 36 members of the gaming media to nominate the best games of E3, surely someone will allow me, today, to nominate my pick for best Xbox Achievement of 2008?

Who cares if the year is barely halfway finished? How can there be a better Xbox 360 Achievement than "Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2"'s Wax Off?

Let's back up for a second. In my last diary entryI wrote about my Tuesday morning session with "GWRE2." I liked the twin-stick shooter but didn't feel yet that it was the best game in the series.

I hadn't unlocked all of the game's six modes yet. On Tuesday night I did, and the game became my favorite "Geometry Wars," after all. Credit the new game's Pacifism mode, which ensnared me with the best let-me-try-one-more allure of a good bag of potato chips. Pacifism Mode also contains what I think is the best and most smartly designed Achievement of the year: Wax Off.
Let me make my case..

'Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2'What I thought would be a dry 24 hours of not playing games was enriched in the final minutes, early this morning, with the pleasant discovery that the new twin-stick shooter "Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2" was available for download over Xbox Live Arcade.

This was great news for me not just because the first "Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved" was my favorite game of the Xbox 360's launch, but because the unheralded "Geometry Wars: Galaxies" on the Wii (classic controller is a must!) was one of my top 10 games of last year.

The new game offers six modes of play, each unlocked after investing putting time in the previous one. I only played three this morning: 1) the three-minute-timed Deadline, 2) a mode called King in which you can only shoot from safety zones that appear and disappear anywhere on the game board -- echoes of dark-world safe zones in "Metroid Prime 2: Echoes" -- and 3) Evolved, which plays similarly to the main mode of "GWRE."

I often start playing sequels in a skeptical and grumpy mood. "GWRE2" suffered from that. Read More...

'Braid'Now that Jonathan Blow's time-manipulating side-scroller "Braid" has a release date for Xbox Live Arcade -- August 6 -- I'd like to refresh readers' thoughts about the game with a look back to a post from last August. It was on August 8 of last year that I ran an interview with Blow in which the designer openly and artfully challenged many accepted game design conventions while explaining his philosophy for the design of "Braid."

The interview proved to be one of the most widely-cited pieces we've run on the blog. You can read it all at this link: “A Higher Standard” — Game Designer Jonathan Blow Challenges Super Mario’s Gold Coins, “Unethical” MMO Design And Everything Else You May Hold Dear About Video Games [UPDATE: link is now fixed!]

In our interview, Blow opened up to me like few designers had before. For example, when I asked him about his views about life affect his thoughts on game design, he said:

... I feel like unearned rewards are false and meaningless, yet so many people spend their lives chasing easy/unearned rewards. So there is a very conscious decision that you only get collectibles in “Braid” when you solve a puzzle, and you only get one per puzzle. Some of the puzzles are easy, some are hard; but you did something very explicit to get the reward. It’s not like “Mario” and every other game since then, when there are gold coins sprinkled everywhere, and you get them just by walking along a path or jumping up to some blocks, and that satisfies your reward-seeking reflex for now and pacifies you into continuing to play the game.

I've played enough "Braid" to highly recommend that everyone should try it when it is released. I also recommend you brush up by checking out our interview. If you care about personal expression and how it can be made manifest in a game coming to the Xbox 360 then Blow and "Braid" should be on your radar sometime between now and August 6.

"Braid" visuals by David Hellman and character by Edmund McMillen.

'Mega Man 9'

I recently interviewed the two Capcom developers overseeing the new "Mega Man 9" game, the throwback game coming to all three consoles' downloadable gaming services this fall. This new "Mega Man" game is 8-bit and designed to look and play like the original ones on the Nintendo Entertainment System. So we talked about the look, the gameplay, which of the "Mega Man" games players should play before playing "MM9," and other stuff.

And I asked Inafune if -- maybe -- there have been too many "Mega Man" games?

Hit the jump for all the answers and a good trashing of the priorities of modern game developers. Read More...

'Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts'

Two months ago, I played a preview build of the Xbox 360's "Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts" and was left scratching my head. It was the first "Banjo" game I had played since the two Nintendo 64 versions. I had skipped the Game Boy Advance edition. The 360 game left me and several other reporters who tried it a bit perplexed. It's a platformer designed to be traversed with player-engineered vehicles driven by Banjo the bear and Kazooie the breegull.

The problem in May was that the vehicle-creation editor was confusing. The game didn't play much like the old Banjo games and seemed an odd use of the franchise. I left my May session of the game highly skeptical that development studio Rare was producing a sequel worthy of its original efforts.

Then I played it at E3 and was impressed -- not just because it's the first Xbox 360 game that includes a Nintendo 64 in it -- but because, well...

"Watchmen" The Video Game. I saw it at E3. It's downloadable. It's a prequel. It's written by the editor of the comic. Collectible sugar cubes not confirmed.

Read more in my "Watchmen" Video Game Preview at MTVNews.com.

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