Knytt Underground intrigued me after seeing a few screens on the PlayStation Blog, so when I unwrapped a few PSN cards for Christmas, I knew what I was buying. At first glance, it would appear to borrow a stylized silhouette look similar to Limbo or Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet. However, the background detail adds so much more. There’s a fine line between brilliant simplicity and shallow boringness. Where does Knytt Underground fall?
The game is comprised of three chapters. Chapter 1 introduces Mi Sprocket, the mute protagonist who can run, jump, and climb walls. There are also power ups which allow Mi to propel herself directionally, or blaze her own trail though the air. Not much later, Chapter 2 transforms Mi into a bouncing ball, allowing much higher jumping, as well as grappling in certain instances. After that the gloves are off, as Chapter 3 plunges you into the entire 1800+ room cave, allowing you to switch between mechanics with the press of a button.
Everything about the game is simple, in a good way. The visuals are impressive. Almost every one of the rooms offers something different to look at, in hues that span the entire visible spectrum. There’s so much vibrancy that I suspect a few shades from the invisible spectrum have also snuck in. Lovely groups of trees, flowers, and plants usually fill the backgrounds, but other themes ebb and flow throughout. Industrial machines and gears, glowing lava and poison pits, miniature cities, bioluminescent mushrooms, ethereal planes – should I keep going?
If there’s one fault, it’s the story. It was a bit too quirky and esoteric for me to follow – often riddled with expletives and sacrilege thanks to one of your accompanying fairies. I’m no saint, but a lot of the brashness seemed unnecessary. Your objective is to ring six bells to stop the approaching apocalypse. Along the way, you’ll meet all kinds of eccentric characters, who’ll send you on fetch quests, rewarding you with items that will allow you to gain access to the bells. There are also all kinds of other trinkets to track down, often requiring the flawless execution and combination of all the mechanics.
Overall, Knytt Underground is a great choice for fans of atmospheric indie platformers. It tackles the idea of spelunking perfectly. Despite the simplistic nature and odd story, I felt compelled to explore every single room. The large world easily justifies the price, and the game’s simplistic nature offers up a worthy challenge. The controls may not be the tightest, but solving each puzzle was extremely satisfying, even if they sometimes took many, many tries.
While at E3, I nearly got to publicly embarrass myself by playing NBA Baller Beats. As my common sense got the best of me, a guy approached me and asked if I wanted to play his game. Curious as to what game this guy was going to show me, I agreed and we went over to a small booth hidden in the Majesco press area that had the name DOUBLE DRAGON NEON on it. I had to look like an idiot to this guy, I had of been rocking a cheesy grin in my joy of seeing an updated version of an antiquated game from my childhood. We chatted for a minute, talking about the old Double Dragon games and what made them so great (answer: every damn thing), then he asked me what my favorite thing about the Double Dragon series has been. My answer? The kick ass sound tracks of course! The guy handed me the headset and immediately informed me to ‘Put these on”. I knew where this was going so I quickly tossed them on (backwards I think) and was greeted with a glorious 8o’s hair metal rendition of one of my most beloved title songs.
Great music was just the introduction into this game. Specifically billed as a “remix” of the old game and not just a HD remake, Neon adds all sorts of goodies and nostalgia into it’s repertoire. One of the most immediate deviations from the original setup is the introduction of the “mixtape”. As you are pummeling in the faces of your enemies, they may drop power-ups that can be added to your mixtape. These power-ups can be things like fireballs or special buffs and can be used to quickly turn around a fight. Another simple but enjoyable addition is the ability to juggle enemies, if nothing else it adds a few laughs into any brawler.
The most interesting change is the high-five system, as the game is meant to be played with a friend, this feature becomes key. High-fives are controlled by the right thumb stick and can do one of four different things. I saw a high-five which allowed my partner to share health with me, a down-low too slow high five which took some of my health and gave it to him and a high five that increased our damage. You don’t seem to have many options these days to directly interact with friends in too many games like you used to in the NES and SNES eras, this feature brings back some of that fun.
I played through a few levels and got to see some familiar faces, like Abobo. Overall, the gameplay seemed smooth and the 80′s themed characters elicited a few chuckles, there are guys with hair picks drop them when they die, allowing you to throw them at enemies and fro their hair out. The game lacked any actual sound effects when I played, so even though it was thoroughly enjoyable, combat felt a little hollow. Obviously that will change by release but it is still worth note.
Double Dragon Neon will be coming to XBLA and PSN in July, keep an eye open for it as it will absolutely be worth the investment!
-Error reading from ESRB datastream- Please visit ESRB.org for rating information.
About six months ago, I decided to become a Playstation Plus member. One of the perks of doing so is getting free games from time to time. These can vary from digital versions of retail releases, to classics from former consoles, or Minis. Originally designed for the PSP, Minis can now be played on the PS3 and Vita. Much like portable and mobile gaming, these titles are smaller in scope and lack the visual fidelity that home consoles provide. So, as a person who spends a ridiculous amount of time on his PS3 and lacks a smart phone, I’ll admit I treated Minis like the red-headed stepchild of gaming. Occasionally, when I had nothing else to play, I’d give one a look but quickly delete it. Then along came a trailer for a game called Velocity and I was dumbfounded. Could an ‘inferior’ Mini actually be good? The results are in, and they’ve surprised even the harshest critic.
Velocity is a upward scrolling space shooter that starts out with a very simple premise. A star has exploded, sending out an electromagnetic pulse that has immobilized all technology. The star then begins to collapse, forming a black hole that will inevitably consume and destroy everything. You must pilot the Quarp Jet, an experimental craft capable of teleportation, to rescue pods of survivors before they are stretched into thin strings, ripped apart at a subatomic level, and sucked into the void never to be seen again. (I may have made that sound a bit harsher and more scientific than the game makes it out to be.)
Gameplay relies on four main abilities. Scroll boosting is the first, allowing you to increase the speed at which the level comes at you (or speed up the ship depending on your view of relativity). Not much later, the pulse cannon is introduced. In the early levels it is primarily used to shatter glass obstructions. As the game progresses it can be upgraded with power ups, destroy turrets and enemies, or trigger circuit breaker switches to deactivate force fields. A while later, the more devastating bombs are explained. They serve the same purpose as the cannon, but can be deployed forwards, backwards, and to the sides. So far I’ve just explained a solid shoot ‘em up, but the best is yet to come. The main mechanic is teleportation. A short range teleport is introduced early on that allows you to avoid blockages and enemies, or get to survivors off the beaten path. After becoming acclimated with that, the long ranged teleport is unlocked, allowing you to place a limited number of telepods which can be warped to at any time by bringing up the level map. These are important because many of the levels contain branching paths or switches that need to be triggered in certain sequences. The game does a great job of integrating all of these abilities one by one, allowing you time to understand each before moving on to the next. Once everything is at your disposal, the real fun begins.
The game’s main story features 50 levels of increasing difficulty. The first fifteen serve as the tutorial for the aforementioned abilities. After that the gloves are off. Each level is graded on several criteria: survivors collected, time, and overall score. Complex medals are rewarded and the experience gained unlocks the later levels. Collecting all survivors and satisfying the gold time limit gives you the ultimate gold medal with three bars. Doing so without losing any of your three lives also gives you a perfect rating. Rescuing all the survivors isn’t all that difficult as long as you look around, but doing so is detrimental to your time. In some of the later multipath stages, efficient use of the boost and telepods are crucial for satisfying the gold standard. I started off getting a few golds, but quickly began to accept the three-barred bronze. This was more than enough for me to unlock all the levels, but left a lot of room for improvement. There are also a few simpler stages where time requirements make you rely heavily on boosting. There’s something incredibly satisfying about the fluidity of using scroll boost in conjunction with the other abilities. Proper timing results in exultation; screw ups result in fiery deaths. There are also 20 tokens scattered throughout the game that unlock 20 bonus missions. These missions include difficult time challenges, minigames, and even a space-themed version of FuturLab’s past game, Coconut Dodge. These tokens are often hidden in remote areas that can only be reached with flawless use of teleportation. I looked around for them quite a bit, but only found about half of them my first playthrough.
I’m convinced this is an elaborate ruse. This can’t be a Mini. The game is its own black hole, containing an infinite amount of mass in an infinitesimally small amount of space. There is absolutely no way that all of this awesomeness is packed into just 77 megabytes. The only explaination is that I myself have teleported to a different dimension where space and time are freed from their currently theorized limitations. Either that or the guys at FuturLab became versed in some kind of dark magic when they sold their souls to the devil. Never in a million years did I think I’d review a Mini. If you would have asked me if it was possible I’d ever enjoy a Mini, I’d have laughed at you. If you’re like the old me, I know this idea may be hard to grasp. Trust me.
Velocity shatters the negative bias of Minis. It’s an incredibly addicting, innovative game that combines the great elements of traditional shoot ‘em ups, a little bullet hell, and a rhythmic quality reminiscent of the music genre. Just like the music genre, it’s easy to pick up, but hard to master. Whether the console of your choice is a PS3, PSP, or the Vita, it’s a game you simply shouldn’t miss. If you are a Plus member you may still be able to download it for free. If not, at $4.99 it’s worth every penny.
If you see one movie this year, make it whatever the hell you want. I honestly don’t care. However if you play one Mini, make it Velocity. I absolutely cannot wait to see what FuturLab’s next project is, whether it’s another Mini or a larger scale release.
-Error reading from ESRB datastream- Please visit ESRB.org for rating information.
What do you get when you take 1 part old school platformer, 1 part storybook adventure and 1 part Tim Burton lucid dream? You get TikGames’ Scarygirl, a platformer adventure game that absolutely oozes with personality.
The eponymous hero Scarygirl runs, jumps, glides, swings and rolls across different locales and hazards while fighting her way through all sorts of cutsie enemies. The game feels very childish, but the gameplay itself is that of a hardcore platformer. The game in some ways reminds me a bit of games like Donkey Kong Country, sometimes putting the player into a situation of extreme peril to discover a secret or hidden item. Along the way, Scarygirl will collect gems that can purchase various power-ups and abilities to allow her to augment her abilities as well.
Scarygirl is based off of the graphic novel by Nathan Jurevicius and deals with her adventures throughout the world. The idea has been seen before but it is a fun game that both veteran gamers and young gamers can get themselves into. Combat is combo based button mashing while special movement style abilities and relegated to rolls and gliding through the air. Enjoyable concepts that will remind veteran gamers of Klonoa or the already mentioned Donkey Kong games and expose the newbies to these classic concepts.
While the game is filled with old school platforming nostalgia, Scarygirl is very vanilla when it comes to absolute variety. The game is enjoyable, but every level has it’s own “gimick”. Things like falling boulders, or hazards from the background falling into the playing area and even the typical water hazards are the type of things that you encounter while playing. It may not sound that bad, but I assure you, you have seen these things before and once you navigate past them once or twice, the honeymoon is over. Pairing that with creative, yet simplistic, combat will make many gamers find sessions to be shorter, since boredom can easily set in.
One of the larger issues that I encountered while playing also happened to be one of the things I liked the most on paper. Scarygirl offers a large amount of customization that shapes the way gameplay works. The thing is, many abilities and add-ons are not in a reasonable price range when you first encounter a use for them. Yes, this creates a reason to backtrack to levels you have been to already but it also come off as frustrating since you may already know what needs to be done but end up a handful of levels short of gems to purchase the upgrades you need. This form of carrot dangling would be acceptable if the awards were worth the work but they end up being little things like health add-ons. Megaman X did this feature the right way by rewarding backtracking by actually upgrading and enhancing abilities by finding these secrets, instead of vice-versa.
Now Scarygirl isn’t a bad game, if anything it shows how great a concept it is to create an old school platformer with new concepts. Unfortunately, it straddles a line between being an enjoyable experience and just an okay game, since I found myself just getting bored at times. The greatest thing about Scarygirl does absolutely have to be the game’s personality. To my son, the game was captivating and appealing, with surreal areas and colorful enemies. If that was what TikGames was aiming for when the game was made, they did a great job. There is a 2 player mode that we enjoyed a good bit, I was able o take on the major challenges while he just jumped around and enjoyed himself.
If you have kids, Scarygirl may be a game you would want to pick up. If you are pinning for an old school platformer, you will get your money out of it. If you are neither of the above, try the demo, see if you like it. Scarygirl a good game that just does not have something for everyone.
You will find a lot if you keep an eye on what is going on in the social media scene. Awhile back, I happened across a developer that was working on a game. It was in pre alpha but looked awesome and I couldn’t help but think of all those great old school shoot-em ups I used to play when I was younger. That developer was Jason from Zanrai Interactive and the game was Heaven Variant. We were able to have a conversation about the progress of his game and get some background information as well, I hope you enjoy it!
Josh Knowles: Well Jason, thanks for taking time to talk to us today. To start things out, who is Zanrai Interactive and how did you all get started?
Jason K: Yeah, thanks for your time as well. Zanrai Interactive is a very indie dev team that consists of a 3 man team. My name is Jason Koohi, I’m the founder of the group, our other members names are Simon Inch and John Etheridge. Both of them were friends of mine as we all attended the University of Texas at Dallas together. When I got out of school I really had no direction so I thought it would be a good idea to take a crack at game development. After a few weeks I had registered a company, put a website up, and after talking with a few people started working on “Heaven Variant” our first game. Jason K: Outside of that, our group is really just a small band of developers working out of our respective homes. Starbucks ends up being our meeting room quite often. haha.
Josh Knowles: So, what is the inspiration behind “Heaven Variant”? It certainly reminds me of a time before kill streaks and DLC.
Jason K: Most definitely. Heaven Variant really is a throwback to the old shoot ‘em up games of the early and mid 1990s. We’re trying to tap into some of that retro aesthetic, keeping in mind games that established the framework for the genre and building off of that with modern technology and modern sensibilities in the way games are designed today. In a way we’re trying to straddle the line between retro and modern in a well established genre that isn’t necessarily common anymore. The inspiration definitely comes from games like Einhander, the Thunder Force series, and the R-Type series. Jason K: Especially those.
Josh Knowles: Those are absolutely staples of the Shoot-em Up genre! What type of game engine are you using for Heaven Variant?
Jason K: We’re using the Unreal Development Kit and it has been modified extensively by our programmer, Simon. The engine is set up now to gives us very familiar gameplay with modern graphical capabilities. It’s great, I can’t sing enough praises to the UDK and its ease of access for indie developers to get started making games.
Josh Knowles: Awesome! I noticed in your Alpha Trailer that there appears to be a story line that will accompany the game. As an old school Shmup fan, I know that outside of Einhander, this isn’t common. Will the story play a large role in Heaven Variant?
Jason K: The story will play a large role in how the game unfolds. It will compliment gameplay. With that said, we’re hoping we can differentiate ourselves from the pack by having our story unfold in a cinematic way all in-game as the player continues through the game. Our alpha video is a few months old, and was a prototype for how I wanted to accomplish this, and it opens a lot of interesting and logical gameplay options that have rarely been tried in this genre, like objectives. In the end, older games did this also they just didn’t give you the context in which you were doing. Again, similarly to how I said we were trying to straddle the line between modern and retro earlier, it’d be nice to straddle the line between old-school arcade gameplay and a meaningful story that makes the gameplay mean something once the game is said and done. Jason K: Haha, this game really has become all about having our cake and eating it, too.
Josh Knowles: Are you saying that there will be branching storylines?
Jason K: It’s something we’re looking into, but right now we have no plans for it. With that said, we’re hoping to allow for some flexibility in the way the story unfolds in game, and while not necessarily as flexible as a full blown branched path, we’re shooting to have NPC characters on the in-game radio react and respond differently to the way the player plays (and whether they accomplish certain tasks or not). We’re also testing a few ways to have multiple lines of dialogue for a single response at a specific section in the game, kind of similar to the way Left4Dead had their characters saying a number of different lines for the same section of a level. It’s really have a cool way of adding more information to the story while making the game feel a little different each playthrough. Jason K: It’s important for us to blend the story seamlessly into the gameplay and we’re looking at all the options available to us. :]
Josh Knowles: So, can you tell us a little about the story that you have so far? Just from watching the video, I have to admit I was intrigued.
Jason K: Thank you. The alpha video is honestly just a prototype with a few rough ideas for how I’d like things to play out here and ther e(and I hope you’ll forgive my one-man show on the voice acting, haha). Right now, the story for the game takes place about 200 years in the future where Earth is in constant global war. Those that escaped to colonies in space live in relative peace but profit from Earth’s plight by supplying weapons and war materials to the factions at war on the planet. I want the game to explore the ideologies of those that facilitate and in a way perpetuate this system to support their lifestyle. Should a society function to increase war elsewhere so that they may remain in peace? And again, I merely want to ask questions about this and leave it up to the player to decide, because the issue is very complicated. It occurs in our world today, but nothing is truly black of white. The player’s role in this story is mucking it up in the gray area and hopefully coming away with some kind of meaining in the end. While the subject matter is serious, I want the game to retain a tone that isn’t completely depressed though and we’re doing that by having a snarky, detached main character that is able to criticize, make fun of, and joke about the things around him, even if they are very serious. The player’s character, Eind Westgunne, is a colonist from space who has never visited the planet, so his views of Earth will be much different from the player’s. In a way he’s holding a mirror up to the player and quite literally asking why things are the way they are, but still in a way that’s still not taking its subject matter THAT seriously. In the end, the game is just a game about blowing things up gloriously.
Josh Knowles: That actually sounds quite cool, so what gameplay features are you hoping will set Heaven Variant apart from other games?
Jason K: Right now, we have your traditional 2D shooter gameplay, but we allow the player sacrifice their movement to aim in 360 degrees, which is not the norm for the genre. Jason K: We also have your staple armor degradation systems for enemies, and when the player is given the ability to manually aim, it allows the player to precisely pick apart enemies, which we’re using to develop gameplay strategies and styles of play. We also have a number of weapons the player can equip ranging from machine guns to melee weapons. We want to give the player a number of options for how to dispatch enemies. Some weapons will be better suited for the situation at hand which adds a strategic element to the gameplay. And again, the presentation of story elements will hopefully set us apart.
Josh Knowles: So far, what is the coolest weapon you have added into the game?
Jason K: Well, that’s very subjective. I’m personally in love with the Energy Blade. It’s exactly what it sounds like and it was feautred in our alpha prototype video halfway through. With the 360 degree aiming, it is really fun to swing around slice enemies with it because the rotation of the weapon is 1:1 to where you aim. With that said, the Vulcan Machine Gun’s constant barrage of sparks and ricochet sounds is pretty sexy, too. Haha. Jason K: When we get giant chainsaws implemented I’ll have to revise my answer though. Haha.
Josh Knowles: Another cool thing I noticed in the Heaven Variant trailers is the soundtrack. Where did you draw most of your inspiration from?
Jason K: Thanks for the kind words. I’m producing the music to be as nostalgia inducing as possible. Haha. I want to embrace a retro feel because it helps sell the setting and tone of the game. As far as inspirations go, the original StarFox, the Thunder Force series, and hell, everything from Konami in the mid-1990s were major influences. Jason K: It would also be very wrong of me not to mention Turrican, whose soundtrack is still amazing 20 years later. Jason K: I could go on and on.
Josh Knowles: So, you obviously have some serious love for the old school shoot-em up, what is your all time favorite?
Jason K: Oh man, that’s like making a father pick which of his children he love’s best! Haha. I suppose I’d have to go with Einhander. It’s resonated with me the most after all these years. Jason K: Hell, anything by Treasure, too. Haha. Again, I could go on and on about this, too!
Josh Knowles: I certainly see a a bit of Einhander in Heaven Variant, I was a Thunder Force(Spirits)/ Life Force fan myself. Do you plan on the game being solely a PC release?
Jason K: Those are good ones. Props on good taste! :] Jason K: As far as the release goes, right now we’re aiming for PC. Mac may be a very distinct possibilty also, but PC is are focus currently. If everything goes just swimmingly, we’d love to get the game out on as many platforms as possible, but right now PC is our focus. Jason K: Any releases on different platforms really hinge on how well the PC release goes. Jason K: Fingers crossed!
Josh Knowles: Any ideas on a hopeful time frame for release?
Jason K: Shooting for a mid-2012 release. With that said, we’re all doing this on the side, so if we hit any bumps in the road that could get pushed back a hair, but mid-2012 is our goal right now.
Josh Knowles: You’ve certainly been making progress in the right direction! Are any current games doing their best to distract you in the completion of Heaven Variant?
Jason K: My God, man! The Steam sale is going on and is going to ruin not only my productivity but my bank account! Haha. I have a backlog of games on there alone. Right now though, Skyrim has consumed a lot of my life, and I’ll be starting Skyward Sword one of these days once I can kick the addiction. Haha. I actually have been meaning to finish Persona 4, I know I’m late to the party on that one.
Josh Knowles: Outside of Heaven Variant, what’s your most anticipated 2012 release?
Jason K: Metal Gear Rising. Hands down! Jason K: Any game that lets me fight giant robots with a sword is a game I can get behind. Haha. Jason K: I’m a little bit of a Metal Gear fanboy.
Josh Knowles: Doesn’t Raiden actually suplex a giant mech in the trailer? I can’t argue, it looks like pure action!
Jason K: *drool* haha Jason K: Yeah, it looks very cool.
Josh Knowles: To wrap things up, do you have any thanks or shout outs you’d like to give?
Jason K: My team. Simon Inch is a programming wizard. He makes things possible that shouldn’t be. John Etheridge is modeling fiend. He makes amazing 3D art with my paradoxical M.C. Escher concept art! Haha. Without the two of them Heaven Variant’s development would not be possible and I cannot emphasize how absolutely vital the two of them are to the game’s production. They’re cool dudes, too. And a shout out to the University of Texas at Dallas for their cool game development programs. Jason K: Outside of that, I’d like to thank you for hosting an awesome interview.
Josh Knowles: Any time Jason! I look forward to playing Heaven Variant!
Glow Arcade Racer is a new indie game out on the Xbox Live Marketplace. It caught my eye a few days ago when I noticed the rich colors and effects in the screenshots. Glow gives of a big “Geometry Wars” vibe. But that isn’t a bad thing. Imagine Geometry Wars as a top down racing game. That is what Glow Arcade Racer is all about.
The game is all about racing three other players around a track that can vary in size and shape. The players can be all computers, or you can grab a friend and play locally. Sounds simple right? It is, but it plays like a dream. The addition of fun power-ups and competitive AI make the game even more fun. The colors and effects will dazzle you, and the soundtrack is not shabby either. The power-ups are one of the best layers to the game. One power-up lets you shoot a couple blasts that will bounce off the walls of the track. They don’t home in on a target, so it takes some skill to bounce them into your enemies. If you hit one, you are given a pretty explosion to stare at, and also a chance at the lead! Watch out though, bounce it wrong and you could kill yourself! I personally had quite a few epic encounters with this. The track was getting narrow and everyone was neck and neck. My opponents were shooting at me, and it was oh so satisfying to dodge a blast and see it come right back at them. It sounds like a simple game, and it is, but there is something about it that adds a ton of fun to it. I myself am already addicted!
The controls are super-easy to learn, and there are only a few minor bugs. I once accidentally forced myself through one of the walls of the track, and had to restart because I had no way back in.
I definitely recommend this game to anyone, regardless of what kind of games you like. It is all around fun with plenty of power-ups, game modes, and tracks to choose from. For only a buck, it’s well worth it, and I see this game becoming a heavy hitter on the marketplace soon.
Want an update on Street Fighter X Tekken? Well we got screenshots and press release info right down below!
The long awaited dream match-up between the two leaders in the fighting genre becomes a reality. STREET FIGHTER® X TEKKEN® delivers the ultimate tag team match up featuring iconic characters from each franchise, and one of the most robust character line ups in fighting game history. With the addition of new gameplay mechanics, the acclaimed fighting engine from Street Fighter® IV has been refined to suit the needs of both Street Fighter® and TEKKEN® players alike.FEATURES
• Dream Match Up – Dozens of playable characters including Hugo, Ibuki, Poison, Dhalsim, Ryu, Ken, Guile, Abel, and Chun-Li from Street Fighter as well as Raven, Kuma, Yoshimitsu, Steve, Kazuya, Nina, King, Marduk, and Bob fromTEKKEN.
• Real-time Tag Battle – Fight as a team of two and switch between characters strategically.
• Familiar Controls – In STREET FIGHTER X TEKKEN, controls will feel familiar for fans of both series.
• Juggle System – Toss your foes into TEKKEN-style juggles with STREET FIGHTER X TEKKEN’s universal air launching system.
• Cross Assault – By using the Cross Gauge, a player can activate Cross Assault and attack with both of their characters at the same time.
• Super Art – Using the Cross Gauge you can immediately unleash a Super Art. Ryu’s famed Shinku Hadoken, Kazuya’s Devil Beam as well as the Tekken characters all have original Super Art techniques.
• Robust Online Modes – In addition to the online features from Super Street Fighter® IV, STREET FIGHTER X TEKKEN features totally upgraded online functionality and some new surprises.