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Yoshi’s Crafted World is classic gaming joy, Nintendo-style – TechCrunch

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In 1995, Yoshi had his moment. The character’s Super Mario World debut was so strong, Nintendo handed the dinosaur sidekick his own sequel. A surprise divergence from the Mario franchise found the character escorting a baby version of the plumber in search of his kidnapped twin.

Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island was regarded as an instant classic for the Super Nintendo. The positive reaction was due, in part, to some bold aesthetic choices. The game featured a shaky line style, both in keeping with the playful infant motif and to further highlight that the title wasn’t just another Mario game.

Yoshi’s island has received a number of its own sequels and spinoffs over the years. This is, after all, Nintendo we’re talking about here. The company has turned riding out IP into a kind of art form. But while many of those followups were generally well-received, but none managed to capture the pure joy of the original.

2015’s Yoshi’s Wooly World came close, but ultimately failed to meet the high standards of many Mario fans. And the fact that the Wii U was ultimately a doomed console didn’t help matters much.

From a design perspective, Yoshi’s Crafted World clearly shares a lot of common DNA with that predecessor and, for that matter, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, with developer Good-Feel being a common denominator in all three.  But the Switch title is a far more fully realized and cohesive package than the Wii U title. And like Yoshi’s Island before it, it’s a joy to play.

The first time I saw gameplay footage, I’d assume the game was a bit more of an open-world adventure — the Yoshi’s Island to Super Mario Galaxy’s Super Mario World. But while the new title gives you some choices, it never lets you stray too far from the standard platformer path.

To this day, side scrollers continue to be Nintendo’s bread and butter, even as it pushes the boundaries of gaming with other titles. At its worst, that means redundancy. At its best, however, Nintendo manages to put a fresh spin on the age old genre, as is the case here.

Clever mechanics like 3D world flipping and paths that point Yoshi down roads in a third dimension keep gameplay interesting. The addition of seemingly infinite Mario 3-style cardboard costumes, coupled with the DIY crafted design language, meanwhile, make it downright joy to play.

Yoshi’s Crafted World is an all-ages title, through and through. In fact, on first playing, the game asks whether you want to play “Mellow Mode” or “Classic Mode,” reassuring you that you can switch things up at any time. Even in Classic Mode, the game does a fair bit of handholding.

But the game’s simple and slow pace is more comfort than annoyance for even older players. The title plays like a casual game, writ large with a fun through line that finds Yoshi hunting down scattered “Dream Gems,” like so many Dragon Balls. It’s never as immersive or addicting as a title like Mario Galaxy, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s the kind of game you can happily play in spurts and come back to, after you’re done living your life.

It’s a reminder that games can be an escape from, rather than cause of, frustration and stress. And it’s definitely the best Yoshi star vehicle in nearly 25 years.

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Win laptops, smartwatches, and more in the 2020 Ars Technica Charity Drive

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It’s once again that special time of year when we give you a chance to do well by doing good. That’s right—it’s time for the 2020 edition of our annual Charity Drive.

Every year since 2007, we’ve been actively encouraging readers to give to Penny Arcade’s Child’s Play charity, which provides toys and games to kids being treated in hospitals around the world. In recent years, we’ve added the Electronic Frontier Foundation to our annual charity push, aiding in their efforts to defend Internet freedom. This year, as always, we’re providing some extra incentive for those donations by offering donors a chance to win pieces of our big pile of vendor-provided swag. We can’t keep it (ethically), and we don’t want it clogging up our offices anyway. So, it’s now yours to win.

This year’s swag pile is full of high-value geek goodies. We have 50 prizes valued at nearly $5,000 total, including game consoles, computer accessories, collectibles, smartwatches, and more. In 2019, Ars readers raised over $33,000 for charity, contributing to a total haul of more than $330,000 since 2007. We want to raise even more this year, and we can do it if readers really dig deep.

How it works

Donating is easy. Simply donate to Child’s Play using PayPal or donate to the EFF using PayPal, credit card, or Bitcoin. You can also support Child’s Play directly by picking an item from the Amazon wish list of a specific hospital on its donation page. Donate as much or as little as you feel comfortable with—every little bit helps.

Once that’s done, it’s time to register your entry in our sweepstakes. Just grab a digital copy of your receipt (a forwarded email, a screenshot, or simply a cut-and-paste of the text) and send it to ArsCharityDrive@gmail.com with your name, postal address, daytime telephone number, and email address by 11:59pm ET Monday, January 4, 2021. (One entry per person, and each person can only win up to one prize. US residents only. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. See official rules for more information, including how to enter without making a donation. Also refer to the Ars Technica privacy policy.)

We’ll then contact the winners and have them choose their prize by January 31 (choosing takes place in the order the winners are drawn).

The prizes

Here are quick descriptions of some of the biggest, most desirable prizes in this year’s contest. See the next page for a complete list of available prizes.

HP Elite G1 Dragonfly laptop

Valentina Palladino

Ars’ review called this laptop “an impressively portable and powerful machine, but it’s also pricey.” But it won’t be pricey for one lucky winner of our sweepstakes, who will get this lightly used review unit for free! Oh, and it also makes for a great Linux machine.

Pro-level flight-simulator controls

Our own Sam Machokovech made use of the Honeycomb Alpha Flight Control yoke, the Logitech G PRO Flight Yoke System with throttle quadrant, and the Thrustmaster Pendular Rudder while spending some extensive hands-on time with Microsoft Flight Simulator this year. Now, these lightly used pro-level controls can be yours!

Evercade retro portable w/ ten cartridges

When we reviewed this retro-focused portable game hardware earlier this year, we found the reliance on swappable plug-and-play cartridges was a concept best left in the past. Still, the device itself is a capable emulation machine, and this collection of cartridges provides a good selection of classic gaming goodness.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2

Samsung

This Samsung smartwatch sets itself apart from the competition with a nifty blood pressure monitoring function, in addition to the usual Galaxy Watch features.

Doom Eternal Collectors Edition (Windows)

Back, in March, we called the latest game in the storied Doom franchise a “masterful twitch shooter” that is “almost uniformly excellent.” This Collector’s Edition version of the game comes with an 11×17″ lithograph, a wearable Doom Slayer helmet, Lore Book, steelbook case, and digital goodies.

Command & Conquer Remastered Collection: Limited Run Games Special Edition

Party like it’s 1995 with this massive physical Collector’s Edition of this classic real-time strategy series. Comes complete with patches, a reversible beanie, official soundtrack on USB and six CDs, 100+ page art book, stickers, replica figurines, and more!

None of the big prizes grabbing your attention yet? Check out the next page for a list of dozens of additional prizes you can win by entering!

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Eldritch terrors come forth in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina S4 trailer

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Kiernan Shipka’s Sabrina Spellman faces the Eldritch Terrors in the final installment of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.

Sabrina Spellman and the good people of Greendale face their most terrifying adversary yet as otherworldly beings seek to bring about the end of all things in the official trailer for the fourth and final season of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. The Netflix series is based on the comic book series of the same name, a part of the Archie Horror imprint.

(Some spoilers for prior seasons below, most notably the S3 finale.)

As we’ve reported previously, the show was originally intended as a companion series to the CW’s Riverdale—a gleefully Gothic take on the original Archie comic books—but Sabrina ended up on Netflix instead. The show retains some of the primetime soap opera elements of Riverdale but it incorporates more full-blown horror without bowing to the niceties imposed by network television. As I wrote earlier this year, “Ultimately, the best thing about The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is how gleefully and unapologetically the show leans into its melting pot of the macabre. It’s quite the high-wire act, exploring serious themes while never, ever taking itself too seriously—and never descending into outright camp.”

In the S3 finale, Sabrina transforms a trio of unholy artifacts into a medieval spiked ball and chain known, appropriately enough, as a morning star. She uses this to create a time loop, enabling her to go back and correct the grievous errors she made over the course of the season. Showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa has already said Sabrina’s time meddling will have “huge repercussions” in this final season, one of which is the fact that there are now two Sabrinas. The original Sabrina Spellman returned to her life in Greendale while her alternate self, Sabrina Morningstar, took up her rightful throne as Queen of Hell. They’re supposed to always stay within their respective realms, but, well, what are the odds of that happening with such a headstrong heroine?

Aguirra-Sacasa has also hinted that S4 will go full-blown Lovecraft. The title of S4’s first episode is “The Eldritch Dark,” an allusion to sci-fi/horror writer and Lovecraft contemporary Clark Ashton Smith, who wrote a 1912 poem with that title. S3 concluded with a now-mad Father Blackwood (Richard Coyle) performing a summoning ritual to call forth the “Eldritch terrors” and telling his loyal acolyte Agatha (Adeline Rudolph) that they will bring about “the end of all things.”

The S4 trailer opens with Spellman family and friends singing “Happy Birthday” to Sabrina, who senses the arrival of something foreboding as she is about to blow out the candles. “They’re here,” Zelda (Miranda Otto) declares, meaning (one assumes) the Eldritch terrors. Meanwhile, cousin Ambrose (Chance Perdomo) helpfully describes “ancient entities. They are world-destroying, and there are more terrors yet to come, culminating with the arrival of The Void.”

It’s up to Sabrina and her friends and family (as always) to stop the boogey-men. And it’s clear from the trailer that Sabrina’s trusty doppelgänger, Sabrina Morningstar, Queen of Hell, will prove to be a handy ally. One assumes that Hell, after all, will also be subject to the end of all things: “A threat to one of us is a threat to us both.”

Will Sabrina and her plucky crew succeed? Will Prudence (Tati Gabrielle) finally take revenge on Blackwood (her biological father)? And are things heating up again with Nick Scratch (Gavin Leatherwood) after his time imprisoned in Hell? Whatever the outcome of this final showdown, our heroes will finish it the way they always do: “together.”

The final installment of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina drops on Netflix on December 31, 2021, so you can usher in the new year with a suitably Lovecraftian binge.

Listing image by YouTube/Netflix

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BioWare studio GM and Dragon Age lead are both leaving company

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BioWare

Casey Hudson, BioWare’s general manager, and Mark Darrah, the executive producer of the Dragon Age franchise, are both leaving the company before the end of the year, BioWare announced today.

EA executive Laura Miele announced the departures in a corporate blog post. “I want to personally thank Casey and Mark for everything they have done for the BioWare community, and particularly for our players,” Miele wrote. “They will always be an essential part of the studio’s history, we appreciate their many contributions, and we look forward to seeing what they’ll each do next.”

Leaving is “not an easy decision to make,” Hudson said. Hudson served as project director on the Mass Effect trilogy before departing BioWare in 2014. He returned in 2017 to take on the role of general manager.

“When I became Studio GM a little over three years ago, our goal as a leadership team was to position our people and projects for long-term success,” Hudson said. “Now, as BioWare celebrates its 25th anniversary, the studio is poised for an exciting new era of amazing games. It’s an exciting time, both in terms of projects you’ve heard about and some things not yet announced.”

Darrah similarly expressed confidence in the studio where he has worked for more than 20 years. “This has been a very difficult decision for me,” he said. “The team of amazing developers on Dragon Age, make my life fuller and better. They have taught me so much. But the strength of the team is also what makes this possible. I know that Dragon Age won’t just survive without me, it will thrive.”

BioWare has been working hard this year to assure its ardent fans that new installments in both its banner franchises, Mass Effect and Dragon Age, are on their way… eventually. In August, the studio dropped a sizzle reel featuring concept art for the eventual, as-yet-untitled Dragon Age 4 at GamesCom. Although the tease gave no glimpse of gameplay or potential release window, it did feature designers and voice actors at work against a dazzling array of concept art.

Last month, not only did Hudson himself confirm that a full remaster of the much-loved original Mass Effect trilogy is in the works for spring 2021, he also dropped the surprise announcement that another game in the Mass Effect franchise is under development at BioWare.

All of those projects will be continuing, Hudson and Darrah assured fans. Going forward, Christian Dailey—currently studio head of BioWare Austin—will be helming Dragon Age. The Mass Effect side of things will be led by Mike Gamble, who was a producer on Mass Effect: Andromeda and lead producer of Anthem.

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