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Mini-Reviews: Braid

It’s good to be back. It’s been a while (but not as long as my previous hiatus). I’m done with finals and I’m taking it easy for the next couple of weeks. In between the craziness, I’ve managed to play more than a couple of games. I’m working my way through my Steam catalog. If you listen to the show regularly, you know that I am backlogged on games that I bought as far back as the summer 2010 sale. I’m going to put together some articles doing short reviews of the games I’ve been playing over the last couple of months since The Binding of Isaac is no longer taking over my life. Some will be older games and some will be newer.

The first game up is a little title known as Braid. Actually, it isn’t a little title at all. Most people have probably heard of it by now, since it was initally released on XBox Live in 2008 and came to the PC a year later. Braid is an actiony, puzzly, platformery side scrolling game in which you play the role of Tim. The main plot involves Tim searching for a princess that has been abducted. While initially it’s not clear what the relationship between the two characters is, more is revealed along the way. Obviously I will not spoil things here for you, but there is a big twist if you are unable to unlock the game’s secret ending.

While Tim appears to be just an ordinary man, he has a rather extraordinary ability. He can control time. You can move backwards and forwards in time as you will. Death is no threat in Braid, since if you happen to get killed by an enemy you can merely rewind time and try again. This can have some unintended consequences, however. Once again, I don’t want to spoil things. You will just have to find out for yourself.

Graphically, the game has a very nice hand-painted art style. Even though it was released in 2008, it could easily compare to a lot of other indie titles released today. The time-altering mechanics of the game have some nice graphical effects too. Slowing things down causes a sort of shimmer in the world, while speeding things up causes the graphics to become overly-saturated. The faster you rewind and speed up, the greater the effect becomes. It isn’t a huge deal, but it is a nice little detail.

The sound effects and music are also done quite well. Braid’s soundtrack consists of some rather somber pieces of music that include keyboards and violins. The soundtrack really fits the game’s atmosphere and themes perfectly. The sound effects don’t quite make as much of an impression, but they suffice. I’d have to say that my favorite one is a nice “BOING” sound you get when you bounce off of an enemy’s head.

Braid was one of the earliest indie games that showed that smaller teams can make high-quality games with lasting appeal. If you haven’t played Braid, I strongly suggest picking it up. If there is one downside, I would say that Braid is not a very long game. You can get through it in just a matter of a few hours. However, you can get it on Steam for a mere $2.49 at the time of this writing. Even at the regular price of $9.99, it is worth getting. The puzzles get devilishly hard as the game progresses. Many of them will leave you scratching your head for quite some time. If you want a game to challenge your brain, you can’t go wrong here.

That will do it for this review. I’ll be back soon with some more on other games, including Deus Ex and Frozen Synapse.

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Happy Birthday 2G1C!

2 Guys 1 Cartridge is officially two years old today.  We will have our special anniversary show on Wednesday with all four hosts that have been a part of 2G1C over the years.

The Pink Reaper will also be out for the Modern Warfare 3 release tonight.  She'll be documenting some of the action.  Go show her some love...that is if she wants people to know where she will be.

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Extra Life: My Night

Hey everyone!  Thank you so much to everyone who donated and supported us during this event.  I had my camcorder in my office to do little check-ins throughout the night.  Team PUNI has raised $687 for CMN Hospitals.  Thank you again.  You all are awesome!

At the end of the event, we were having some fun in League of Legends.  We ended the event with a win.

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Extra Life: PUNI Joins the Cause

Hi everyone!  I'm here to say that I will be joining the Extra Life 24-hour gaming charity event.  If you would like to donate, you can do so here.  Any amount is greatly appreciated.  If you can't donate, please spread the word.  Thank you everyone for your time!

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A Look at The Binding of Isaac

Note: I am going to do this article as spoiler-free as possible, so it may come across as a little light on details of the game at times.

Hey everyone. It's been a while, hasn't it? The last post from me was waaaay back in April. I did my preview of the indie games of 2011. The game that I'm writing this article about was not on that list. It sort of came out of nowhere. I had heard of The Binding of Isaac maybe a month ago or so. All I knew was it had a very bizzare trailer and was being made by Edmund McMillen, half the design team of last year's indie smash hit, Super Meat Boy. A lot has been said about what The Binding of Isaac (which I’ll just refer to as Isaac for the rest of this article) is and isn’t. There seems to be a debate about what kind of game Isaac is. Some say it’s a roguelike. Some are adamant that it doesn’t fit into that genre, and say it’s just an action game. Others, including myself, find it to be a crossover of different genres that just plain works.

A bloody mess.

The story behind the game is that your mother is watching Christian television one day, and hears the voice of god. God tells her to lock Isaac away, and later on to kill him. Isaac overhears this thanks to a crack in his door, and decides to throw himself down into the basement. This is no ordinary basement however. Locked inside is a labyrinth full of grotesque creatures. Some of them bear resemblance to Isaac himself, but are horribly distorted. Some are designed to resemble…certain body parts. You encounter enemies based off the seven deadly sins, and even do battle with the four horsemen of the apocalypse. And they all have one thing in common: they are out to kill you. This is a violent little game, no doubt. Enemies leave piles of gibs when you kill them. Suicide, self-mutilation, Satanism and child abuse are also brought up at certain points through the items you acquire and in some cut scenes. This may turn off some potential buyers, and could outright offend some.

At this point, you might be wondering, “Why the hell should I buy this game?” Well, Isaac is one of those “just one more” kinds of games that you find hard to put down. The key behind this is that Isaac’s levels are randomly generated. You will never face the same dungeon layout twice. That isn’t to suggest that you will never run across the same rooms inside the dungeons more than once. Hell, one time I had the same room with the exact same enemies back-to-back. The beauty of this setup is that you never know what you are going to get. However, this is the game’s greatest strength and also a source of frustration. Because it is randomly generated, you may not get a useful item in a dungeon. Say for example you need a key to unlock a door and also a chest. You may not ever get those keys. If you can’t acquire one, you can never open that door or that chest. This is especially painful early on when it is critical that you power up your character, and you have to leave a dungeon wondering what is behind that door.

The random element also creates a risk/reward factor. Since bombs, keys and coins are your resources, Rollin' with my crew.it would be wise to conserve them unless you feel like you actually need it. Do you want to use your only key on that chest to see what’s inside? Or save it for later to see if you need it on a door? Are you down to your last bomb? You might not want to waste it killing enemies since you might need it to break some rocks to get to an item or cross a pit.

Another one of the strengths of the game is discovering what new powerful items you can get. Because you don’t know what an item does until you pick it up for the first time, you don’t know what to expect. This is a joy in and of itself. You have two weapon slots in Isaac. The first slot contains your primary weapon, which is your own tears. You shoot them at your enemies. Somehow. You may find a weapon that allows you to charge your shots. One turns them into homing shots. Other items let you shoot two or three at a time. One lets you shoot pee at your enemies instead of your tears.

Pay day.The other slot is a secondary item which you can use once and then it has to recharge.  And if you pick up a secondary weapon you don’t like, you can pick your old one back up, which is a definite plus when it comes to picking the best item for your play style. Secondary items come in a very wide variety. Some items affect your health. Others grant you temporary damage bonuses. Some have off-the-wall effects like turning you into a bomb. There is also a large amount of passive damage bonuses, like being able to poison enemies when they touch you or increasing your damage or speed. There are far too many to actually list here, but as I said, figuring out what items do what is a great part of the game.

Early on, you can get through a game of Isaac in around 30 minutes. The game does get longer and Nobody said there would be poo.progressively harder with subsequent playthroughs. The graphic style is slight reminiscent of Super Meat Boy, as anyone who played that game will probably notice right away. At first glance, some may write it off as a knockoff of the original “The Legend of Zelda”. True, the game’s layout is wholly influenced by the classic NES game. There are bombs, keys, and coins in the same fashion as The Legend of Zelda. The map is in the same style. You start with three hearts. Some of the sound cues are even borrowed from, or are at least influenced by, Zelda. Even the game’s logo bears resemblance to the familiar Zelda logo from the title screen. That, however, is where the similarities end. This is a much more twisted journey than any mind at Nintendo could have ever created.

The Binding of Isaac is available through Steam for the low price of 5 dollars. I have already put about 14 hours into it in just a little over a week, and there is still plenty left to play through. But be warned, it is addictive and you won’t want to put it down. It's not for the faint of heart, or the squeamish types, but anyone with a stomach who is looking for a unique experience should do themself a favor and pick it up.

Anyway, that’s going to wrap it up for my look at The Binding of Isaac. Now I have to get back to slaughtering floating fetuses in the basement.

P.S GO BUY IT!

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Previously, on Power-Ups Not Included

You've been pretty busy lately, haven't you? You've probably been meaning to check the site for updates, right? Riiiiight?  Well, we've been pretty busy lately too.  In case you've missed what we've been up to, here's a recap of the last week or two.

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Welcome the Freeloader

Hey everyone! We have added a new member to our team.  Say hello to Jardon.  He will be covering a bunch of free to play games for all of you out there that don't like the idea of spending $60 every time a new title comes out.  Check out his page here.

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Ammo Presents: LOL's of the week

Ever get that text that had you literally ROFL? Or snapped a pic of something so funny it had to shared with the world? Me too! Well, starting today, every Teusday I'll be sharing my funny phone messages and pics with all of you. Oh and get this, you'll get your chance to also have your "LOL" featured here on Power-Ups every Thursday. All you have to do is TEXT a screenshot of your conversation/picture to APN_Ammo@Rocketmail.com. And don't worry people, I won't save your number..or sell it to telemarketers..or call you in the middle of the night, breathing heavily, and hang up...or will I?

Just Kidding ;). Don't forget to check the LOL's of the week every Tuesday and Thursday on the "Latest and Greatest" Section of Power-UpsNotIncluded.com

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Halo 4/MW3/Battlefield 3/Need 4 Speed-The Run...All Great Titles.

All these titles will draw in the crowd they are intended to reach (ha ha "Reach").  While I was locked in front of the flat screen watching 30 minute long footage of new releases for this fall and next year, I realized that people will need a pretty big expense account to absorb the cost of all these titles.  I can honestly say that I am a fan of them all, with H4 at the top of the list.  Very few games have two stars battling large forces of enemy hostiles like the Halo franchise does.

Yes.  MW3 has some incredible graphics, Battlefield 3 has some incredible sounds and graphics, and NFS-The Run has the cross country real time racing scenario multiplayer (which I think the APN will enjoy trash talking as we speed through states for hours on end).

But none of these have the immense storyline and past that the Halo story has.  Even with saying that, one is not better than the other or worse than the other.  It's just different degrees of gaming and excitement. 

Oh, and a final note, Star Wars on Kinect........ (the challenge has been issued and I am changing O'shai's name to O'shit as I place a light saber in places no jedi has even placed a saber before)

May the force (and a gaming budget) be with us.

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E3

E3 is here and 2G1C is all over it.  We'll be having an episode every night.  We're excited over Microsoft's demo today, and we're pumped to see everything else that E3 has in store for us.  Time to take out another loan.

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Update: 5-15-11

Hey everyone!  This week should be fun.  Episode 59 of 2G1C will be up Monday night. I promise this time.  Last week was a little crazy.  We will also have a new challenge up tomorrow evening.  Hopefully we can get parts 3 and 4 of the Vampire Smile challenge up and maybe we can also get a video walkthrough of the Pimp Ship "Where's My Money" from APN Ashes.

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Indie Games of 2011, Part 2

Hey everyone. I'm back with part 2 of our look at the indie games of 2011.

Retro City Rampage

 

Retro games are nothing new. Everyone has been doing it from big publishers like Capcom and Nintendo down to the little guys. Retro City Rampage, however, looks to surpass all those games in its attempt to really take the player back to the 80s. Hell, just look at the video. How many Nintendo references are in it? Any old school gamer should fall in love with this game. It looks like a mix of many different genres and many different elements of NES-era games.

Retro City Rampage is coming to Xbox Arcade and WiiWare sometime this year.

 

Skulls of the Shogun

With the trailer released at Pax East 11 (the above trailer) Skulls of the Shogun has been getting a lot more attention, and rightfully so. Skulls of the Shogun is a turn-based strategy game that sports a very attractive hand-drawn art style. When I learned it was a game featuring undead Samuri warriors, I was even more intrigued. The premise of the game is built around a general who is killed in combat and is attempting to reach the afterlife. Upon learning that it will take over 500 years, he seemingly decides to butt his way to the head of the line by taking out everyone ahead of him. The developer promises multiplayer, up to 4 players, which has the potential to be one of the best multiplayer games of the year.

Skulls of the Shogun in coming to PC and Xbox Arcade. No release date has been announced.

 

Cobalt

I don’t know much about Cobalt. The developer hasn’t released many details. What I do know is that it looks like a fast-paced platformer with plenty of action, weapons and explosions. Also, the music in the trailer is pretty awesome and hopefully will be indicative of the quality of the soundtrack of the game. The AI looks pretty sharp too which will hopefully give the game a dynamic element.

Cobalt is supposed to be coming to PC and Mac OSX, and possibly consoles. No release date has been announced.

 

Orcs Must Die

Do you hate orcs? Want to kill them by the hundreds? Robot Entertainment is making the perfect game for you. Orcs Must Die is an action/tower defense game where you take on the role of a member of The Order, a group of mages tasked with defending fortresses against using a variety of spells, weapons and traps. Beating orcs to a pulp is the primary focus of the game, but there will be things like talent trees and a variety of enemies to mix things up. No multiplayer has been announced, but it looks like another game that could excel at co-op and PvP.

Orcs Must Die is coming to PC and consoles sometime in 2011.

 

Interstellar Marines

Interstellar Marines relies on a concept referred to as “AAA Indie” by developer Zero Point Software. The goal is to bring big-budget quality FPS gaming to the indie scene. Interstellar Marines looks to add elements back to the FPS genre that are sorely lacking in today’s world of cut-and-paste big budget shooters, such as non-linear gameplay and a deep story. And if you ever wanted to fight 4-legged sharks, Interstellar Marines is the game you’re looking for.

Interstellar Marines is planned for a 2011 release on PC first with Xbox Arcade and PSN coming later.

 

That will be all for now. I will keep an eye out for any more promising indie games and let you all know about them as soon as I do.



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Innovation at the cost of Convenience

Hey everyone!  Today we have a special guest article.  Definitely give it a read.  Let us know what you think!
By: Gloria
Like many folk who define their self worth by the amount of expensive gadgets they have,
I rushed out to buy the 3DS on release day, becoming an early adopter on a system I knew would
eventually revolutionize how we experience games. Much like the wii, I feel as though most of us were
blinded by the shiny coolness of the fact that each time Nintendo releases a gadget – it pushes us
closer and closer to Jetsons era moving sidewalks and holographic robot maids. The wii and the 3DS
are awesome, and please don’t get me wrong on this – I’m not trying to outright blast either console,
but even as a die-hard fan I’ve come to recognize that “super revolutionary and cool” doesn’t always
constitute practicality.

As awesome as it felt the first time I played wii tennis, after a while the novelty wore off and I
found myself sitting on my duff in a chair, desperately wishing that I didn’t have to swing my arm like a
tool every time I played twilight princess. (I didn’t have a gamecube controller. I think that my lack of
enjoyment with regards to the control scheme majorly impacted my view of that game.) The wii was
great when I felt like exercising, but Nintendo was fairly accurate in its assessment that it had missed its
point with most regular gamers. Thankfully I had my PC to fall back on, and the DS was also a very
fantastic gaming system given the history of the handheld market.

Unfortunately after spending some time with my 3DS, I think it is going to become much like the
wii in terms of how practical it is. Most people I know that have the console just play with the 3D turned
off if they can get away with it. I’ve found myself considering going that route as well. After the
initial, “Wow, this is so cool!” wears off, the flaws of the system start to come to light very quickly, and
I’m left wondering: What, honestly, was Nintendo thinking? I understand the need to innovate, but
there is a very fine line between innovating for the sake of innovation and releasing an unfinished
console, and actually taking time to make sure that the ideas that worked on paper work in the real
world as well.

My first, and largest gripe, is the 3D “sweet spot” that you need to be in to see the 3D effects
properly rather than a mishmash of 2D layered images on top of each other. To put into perspective – I
usually play on my bed, propped up on pillows with my knees bent up and my console in my hands
around my chest/stomach area. When you are using a 3DS game that requires extensive use of the
stylus, like Nintendogs, you can only hold the console in one hand most of the time. For me, I was
holding it in my right hand since I am left-handed and that is my non-dominant hand. After some time
playing like this, I realized that as my hand got tired and drooped a bit, I would fall out of the arguably
tiny sweet spot for the 3D and see blurry images that, given lengthy playtime, would probably give me a
headache.

With my prior DS consoles, this was never a problem. I could lay upside-down for all I cared and
still be able to see the images perfectly. Not so anymore. Even sitting in a chair, it takes some time to
find the right spot to hold the 3DS, and if you move even slightly the thing goes out of focus. I’m not
sure why they designed a handheld console, a market based mainly on its portability and convenience,
to be so rigid in how you need to actually hold the damned thing. Seriously. I cannot imagine what it is
going to be like to play ocarina of time 3DS for hours at a time on this thing. My honest prediction is that
an hour in, 90% of players are going to flip the 3D off so they can be comfortable and play for the
updated graphics. Consider that most of the titles out for the 3DS right now are casual titles that most
people aren’t playing for more than an hour or so at a time. This console’s first real test will be when
OOT comes out and people are playing for extended periods of time. If more than 60% of people are just
choosing to flip the 3D off, Nintendo has failed because people essentially paid $250 for another DS.

A second issue I have is the way the depth of the 3D doesn’t flow well when objects are moving
quickly between the foreground and background. For example: when I play Nintendogs and take my
super adorable shiba inu out for a walk and he finds a gift on the ground, he runs rapidly from the
background to the foreground with the item in its mouth. This transition from back to foreground 3D
causes a couple of seconds of discomfort as my eyes adjust, given the boxlike 3 dimensions of the
present and the dog. Maybe it’s just my old, tired, 25 year old and therefore ancient eyes, but it’s
actually quite jarring the first few times it happens. I guess my main point on this one is that the 3D
effects, while cool, aren’t fully fleshed out and the times when they don’t work can be a bit of a strain
on your eyesight. I tried adjusting the slider, but short of turning the 3D effect off completely, I was still
having this problem.

I want to love this console, and for the first week I did. Time is going to tell if Nintendo really hit
it out of the park with the 3DS, or if it’s just going to be another warren of shovelware and Sudoku
games. In the end I’m still very excited to be able to get my hands on Link’s Awakening through the
virtual console, and I’m also incredibly excited for the new animal crossing game. Unfortunately the
lingering thought that I spent almost $300 on something I’m only getting partial use out of is starting to
really weigh down my opinion of the 3DS and Nintendo in general.

 

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Indie Games of 2011, Part 1

 For anyone who listens to the show, you already know that I am a big fan of the indie gaming scene. There are plenty of games coming out this year that I feel deserve a lot more attention than they have received. I’ve taken the legwork out of finding these great games for you by compiling a list of them here. First up we have probably my most anticipated indie game of the year.

Bastion

I discovered Bastion a couple of months ago. Bastion is an action/RPG style game that has a beautiful hand-drawn art style. The game plays out in real-time and there is a narrator that essentially tells the story while you play. I am still up in the air over that, since it could get annoying, but the developers have said that the narrator will point out things that you may otherwise not have known or seen. It looks like a game that has the potential to be very deep and rewarding.

Bastion is coming to the Xbox Arcade sometime over the summer, and PC later in the year.

Fez

Fez is a 2D platformer with an interesting gameplay twist.  You use the trigger buttons to essentially “flip” the world, 90 degrees at a time. Flipping the world alters how you interact with objects. For example, a platform that may be out of reach from one perspective will be able to be used to jump on and reach other areas from another perspective.

Fez has been in development for several years, and the release date has been pushed back several times, but has been rumored to be coming out this year on Xbox Arcade first. The developer has said that they will consider other platforms in the future, but nothing has been announced.

Spy Party

Spy Party is a spy/espionage game that takes a different approach. It's a 2-player game where one person takes the role of a spy and the other of the sniper. The sniper’s objective is to figure out who is the spy by using clues and kill them. The other player’s objective is to accomplish something nefarious, i.e. kill someone, steal something etc. However, this is probably oversimplifying the game, as you can probably tell from the video.

No platforms or release date have been announced as far as I know.

AM2R

I had plugged this game on a previous episode of 2G1C. AM2R is a remake of Metroid 2, aptly titled, Another Metroid 2 Remake. I'm not sure why it's called "Another" Metroid 2 Remake. I wasn't aware that was a hugely popular game to remake. Anyway, AM2R brings the classic, underrated Metroid title up to GBA/DS standards and revamps the world a bit as well. There are new new areas to explore, new weapons and new enemies. The core gameplay is still classic Metroid.

AM2R has been in development for several years now. It appears to be coming to an end, hopefully this year. Of course, no release date has been announced, but it will be coming to PC.

Minecraft

If you read gaming publications or websites, Minecraft should not require any introduction. If you don’t, then you probably live under a rock. Minecraft is a sandbox game that puts you into a world where you can alter the environment. This is essential to the game since you must build  a house, and then burrow deep into the earth to explore a series of caves that exist underground.

Minecraft is set up to be a huge success. The game already has over 1 million preorders. That is a hell of a lot for an indie game. To put it in perspective, Super Meat Boy, the biggest indie game of 2010, sold about 600,000 copies as of this writing. Minecraft is going to be released on PC on November 11, 2011.

Dungeon Defenders

The last game I’m going to talk about today is Dungeon Defenders. Dungeon Defenders combines elements of action RPG and tower defense. You play in a typical RPG class and have to defend against hordes of enemies. It may sound like I’m selling the game short, but the strength of it will probably like in the co-op mode, similar to Borderlands. Let’s just hope it turns out to be more playable at launch than that game. It appears like it will rely on a lot of RPG clichés, but at the same time it doesn’t take itself too seriously. The emphasis looks to be on fun over everything else.

Dungeon Defenders will be coming to Xbox Arcade, PSN, PC and Android later this year. PSN, PC and Android users will be able to play cross-platform, while Xbox users won’t.

That will do it for now. I will be back in a little bit with a follow up featuring more great forthcoming indie games.



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Online Gaming. The new bully schoolyard???

Surely you have heard this during your online game play, "keep talkin that shit and I'm coming to see you man!" OR "you know where I'm from? I'm from the south side.....we don't play that." There's the name calling, the insulting, the threats, the false player review comments. Has online gaming rooms turned into the new bully schoolyard? Is the price of admission only $60.00 for anyone with a bad attitude to  harass you during your game play? Honestly - why do people (adults) feel that they can get online and engage in a childish behavior as if they were reliving the 6th grade???

Thank God (and the creation of common sense) that we can call upon the "unwritten amendment" FREEDOM OF MUTE. You have the right to mute the idiot that has made it the sole of his/her existence to torment other players online.

I might add that in response to this behavior (in person), I would recite the APN prayer right before I sprinkle so baby powder on this mighty right-hand and (as Serenity would direct me to) "Handle my business P.I.M.P.) I'm not only the APN leader, I'm also a member.

DONE.

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It Feels So Good

I've been putting in some OT on the 2G1C portion of the site.  Every episode has been pulled from our original host and added to the associated post here.  The stream has been added to iTunes.  Just search for 2G1C.  If you like, throw us a quick review or comment there.

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More Changes

The APN site has been added, and there will be posts soon from Ashes and Ammo.  The links portion of the site has the Bungie profiles of all APN members.  We also have a new page in place called "Should You Play It?".  Finally a place for the whole team to review games new and old.

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The APN

The APN have officially joined the ranks of Power-Ups Not Included.  Check out their new page under our Community section.

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Cubed

I post today on a more serious note. Steve's (Cubed) house caught fire Friday afternoon. He is ok, just really shaken up. We hope him the best throughout this trial. He will also be stepping down from 2g1c for a while. We will try to keep the show going in his absence. Thank you again everyone

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