Interview: Harold Goldberg discusses his in-depth podcast with Reggie Fils-Aime

Podcasts these days are fascinating to listen to, especially when they go deep with their subjects. And that’s exactly what Harold Goldberg has done with Talking Games, a limited series podcast he’s hosting alongside former Nintendo president Reggie Fils-Aime.

Over the past few weeks, the duo has talked with a number of guests, including Xbox head Phil Spencer. That episode can be found below.

But what prompted the duo to get together in the first place? And what’s more, where could the show be headed next? We had a chance to chat with Goldberg about the creation of Talking Games, as well as other subjects. Take it away, Harold!

Getting Started

DVS Gaming: First off, congrats on the podcast! You’ve had Phil Spencer and Geoff Keighley, and we’re still in the midst of its run. How are you feeling right now?

Harold: Happy. Tired. Elated. I’m so glad the New York Videogame Critics Circle got to do something that hasn’t been done before – with Reggie.

DVS Gaming: How did the podcast come together? Did you go to Reggie and say, “Hey, I’ve got an idea,” or was it the other way around?

Harold: I went to Reggie and said, two things are happening. We’re in the midst of COVID-19 and people are sad and isolated. Plus, the New York Videogame Critics Circle is a nonprofit which mentors, hires paid interns and offers scholarship. Along those lines, I was asked to start a program for young people at a Bronx homeless shelter. I thought we could entertain people and raise money for a great cause at the same time. Thankfully, Reggie, who’s on our board, agreed. We’re raising money at NYGameCritics.com/Reggie and we would love it if all Reggie fans to donate through that portal.

DVS Gaming: Did you guys go through a few “trial runs” to get the vibe going for the show, or would you say you found it right off the bat?

Harold: I sent Reggie a show run document and a script. We went over a couple of names for the show. Annie Pei, a Circle member from CNBC agreed to produce and we all got along. It was an amazingly good vibe from the get-go.

Reggie is all about podcasting.

The Fans Love It

DVS Gaming: How has the reception to the show been thus far? From what I’ve seen, people really like it.

Harold: It’s been great because it’s unique show. There’s nowhere else where a legendary, former game company president joins forces with a journalist to raise money for charity on a podcast. And Anton Sanko, a Grammy and Emmy winner, scored our music. 

DVS Gaming: What’s the biggest challenge when it comes to putting together a podcast like this?

Harold: We have a great team of volunteers – all Circle members working hard together – while most have their own full-time jobs. I think scheduling sometimes is a challenge. We haven’t had any issues with getting guests or getting our message across. It’s been a smooth process overall and a wonderful experience!

DVS Gaming: Is there anything missing from the show that you’d like to add, or do you think the format is fine the way it is?

Harold: I like the format the way it is. I’d probably like to add live music, but that is a challenge in itself.

DVS Gaming: What guests would you like to see on the show over the course of its run? Shigeru Miyamoto, perhaps? Give us a rundown of your “dream” guests.

Harold: Because of Reggie’s profile and, well, I’ve been around as a journalist for a long time, I think we have every game industry person we’ve wanted to get. In my wildest dreams? Barack Obama, John Lewis, Kendrick Lamar, Beyoncé, Jenny Lewis and Paul McCartney.

More For the Future?

DVS Gaming: The game industry is in a rough spot with everything that’s happening right now. Do you believe your podcast provides a way for people to unwind and get better perspective on what’s on the horizon?

Harold: Yes. I hope we can provide entertainment, empathy, and education. There’s not a lot of yukking it up on the podcast. There is humor as you saw with the Phil Spencer and DrLupo episodes. It’s serious but chill, too, and we all have something to say.

DVS Gaming: What’s next after this podcast series concludes? Will you try a different one? Maybe try to bring Reggie back for more? Is his body ready?

Harold: We’re all super busy. I have two books I want to write. The Circle has mentoring throughout the summer and then we begin to produce the 10th New York Game Awards in January (either virtually or in-person). Reggie is quite busy with a number of projects. You’ll have to listen to Episode 7 to find out if we’re going to do this again. I can say it’ll be a special PlayStation episode with lots of surprises – all to benefit homeless students.

You can check out more details on the podcast here!

Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee Nintendo Switch Review: This Ain’t No Stranger

For those unfamiliar with the Oddworld series, Munch’s Oddysee first began as an exclusive on the original Xbox. At the time, Oddworld Inhabitants was itching to give the game some oomph for Microsoft’s platform. It paid off to a certain extent, though some fans believed it was missing the magic of the previously released Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee, mainly due to its transition to 3D.

Since that time, the game made the journey to Steam; and now, following the release of the successful Stranger’s Wrath on the platform, Munch’s Oddysee has come to Nintendo’s system. But the real question is whether or not the game can strike lightning on a new platform. That all depends on what you thought of it in the first place, mainly because nothing has really changed.

The Odd Shift To a New Dimension

The big problem with Munch’s Oddysee is that, despite the developer’s good intentions, its transition to 3D wasn’t quite as successful as they had hoped. Part of this is due to the strong nature of the original Oddworld games on PlayStation, which utilized a 2D format and yet made the game experience so compelling. Transitioning that formula into 3D, it doesn’t entirely work.

Sure, Munch’s Oddysee looks charming…but its gameplay fails to follow suit.

And sadly, that’s the same case with the Switch port. On the one hand, there are some engaging moments here, such as speaking with fellow Mudokons or collecting this weird “spooce” currency (that’s an odd word to say, by the way – especially during meetings). But on the other, solving puzzles and getting things done in this world just doesn’t have the same layer of depth, even with the transition into the new dimension.

Abe doesn’t do all the work here. He has to team up with Munch, the “star” of the game, as it were, to get things done. It’s an interesting co-op dynamic, but it hasn’t entirely aged well, with the game’s ancient mechanics to blame. Some people might get into it, but it takes a while to make any true progress. Again, there are fun moments along the way, but the experience as a whole fails to be as compelling as the downright brilliant Stranger’s Wrath.

A Solid Port, But Not Much Improvement To the Gameplay

One huge advantage that Oddworld Inhabitants has with the Nintendo Switch over original Xbox technology is being able to improve upon the game’s visuals. They do so in spades, as the game looks lovely in both handheld and TV form. The level design is pretty unique, with both interiors and exteriors that match up with Oddworld’s usual setup; and the animations are cute and enjoyable.

All hail the Big Well?

But, interestingly enough, Oddworld Inhabitants didn’t really take too much advantage of the platform when it comes to gameplay. This is especially true with expanding the dialogue options, as well as making things a little easier to play. It’s as if the team was so focused on making visual improvements that it didn’t pay attention to what could’ve been done with the controls. That’s not to say that Munch’s Oddysee plays absolutely terribly. But it doesn’t quite evolve on the platform the same way that Stranger’s Wrath did a few months back.

Only Die-Hard Fans Should Take This Oddysee

Had Stranger’s Wrath not shone like a diamond on the Switch just a few months back, it’d be a little easier to forgive Munch’s Oddysee’s shortcomings. It’s got some lovely graphics; and, again, there are some fun moments here for die-hard fans of the series. But it comes up way too short in gameplay, mainly due to its aged design and the lack of genuine improvements. Some people might feel the need to jump back into this world. But, honestly, we’d kill to see the older Oddworld games come onto the platform instead. Oh, what we’d give for a quality port of Abe’s Exoddus

RATING: 5/10

A fairly decent port of a flawed Oddworld game, Munch’s Oddysee just can’t live up to the previously released Stranger’s Wrath.

Layers Of Fear 2

DVS Gaming Video Game Review

Layers Of Fear, horror, and suspense wrapped into a dingy dark video game. If you had played the first Layers Of Fear game, that was released in 2016, then you have no clue what’s about to crawl out of the corners of the second installment in the series. Unlike most horror game series that tend to follow the same story through-out the multi-game series, Layers of Fear brings you story upon story without looking back. There are very few things similar to LoF2 to its predecessor. Both games brought to you by Bloober Gaming, which sets an example for how far they’ve come from the original planning and testing of Layers Of Fear. Thanks to GunMedia, the second installment of Layers Of Fear is polished and curated to make the experience even more indulging. As Layers Of Fear started as an ”Indie Game” in 2016, their studio has grown and made possible this amazing horror.

Darkness Wrapped in a Mystery

As is with most horror, music and atmosphere truly make the game. If one is lacking, then surprise and deceit can be seen from chapters away. Yet if it’s drenched in mystery and soaked with fear, the smallest of shadows can send one spiraling into fear. Layers Of Fear 2 truly built upon their strongest points. Between the lighting in the game, the music and the sense of never-ending mystery, this game offered more within its first chapter than most horror movies do in their entirety. Shadows played against the light in perfect tandem to the madness building in your mind, making you second guess what you thought was real. What you thought was your story, has changed again and again into a dark hallway with the stories of those who have been trapped on board…

The Candyman Comes To Play…

Welcome onboard the ship…this is where actors come to play, to cry, to die. The 1930s style suite you landed in offers no help to your confusion. You were told to come for a play, yet you’ve found no stage nor any scripts. Just the lone phonograph taunting you with a steel cylinder used to record sound. You’ll find yourself enthralled with the amount of history in the suite; the art, the photos, the music… The Voice. As you move through the game, exploring more of the ship, finding out that the play is to be conducted as realistically as possible. With no interruptions from the crew or any other passengers, you have full right of the ship. As the evening goes on, and you have finally come to find that you are alone in this play, a voice can be heard. First quietly, almost taunting you into the next chapter of the game. A familiar, immediately frightening voice peers through the crashing waves against the ship. CandyMan… Otherwise known as Tony Todd, is the voice narrator of this game which only adds to the intense darkness of ‘Layers of Fear 2’.

Welcome to The Show

This Ship Is Not For The Weak

Tony Todd’s voice lulls you into a false sense of darkness, as Tony does, slowly making you comfortable with the horror you are about to experience. Tony does well introducing the story to you, leaving you alone in silence just as the ship starts to turn. Chapter after chapter, the stories being written scratch at the back of your mind. Shadows play in the halls, dancing in and out of rooms causing you to follow them as curiosity is one of mankind’s weaknesses. Layers of Fear uses your own inability to quell the curiosity, to lure you further into the story. The ship continues to toss and buoy in the oceans drift, this being shown by small glimpses to the deck, or through portholes along the hallways. As you move through the chapters, the darkness starts to illuminate more than just some monsters waiting to pop out of the dark.

The ship, previously thought to be empty had signs of children and crew on the levels where you were told to explore. Stories unfold, sadness and evil coming together binding upon the ship, trapping all those who enter its chambers. The food you had walked by, has now become rotten with time. Spiderwebs stretch across the halls and rooms as far as the eye can see. Parts of the ceiling had collapsed, giving the actor a clear sense of madness as the rooms continued to change. To escape your own madness, you’ll have to piece together clues that surround you with every step, every word of the stories told to you.

The Calming Seas

Can you tell the difference between reality and make-believe?

Choices to be made…yet with no discernible proof for either choice, with nothing more than a perfectly poised question during your darkest moment…the choice will be yours to make. Good or bad…a choice is a choice that has to be made. Will your fear make you choose? Or will you be in control of your fear? Strength has no meaning in a destitute place like the Ship. Only the darkness can show you the way to the light. Has it been a day? A week? More? The Ship is control of what you will experience and there is but one ‘man’ whose been freed of the Ship, but at a cost. You hear more and more of this man, but every photo you come across with him has his face scratched out for none to see. The Actor and The Painter, again and again, these men haunt your vision. You learn more about them through the slides and photos you find scattered about the ship in its many rooms.

The humanity…what’s left of it…can be more frightening than the monsters in the dark.

As you scavenge for clues and anything that can help your protagonist make his way through the story, don’t forget to enjoy the scenery. Layers of Fear is drenched in horror. Keep your eyes wide when you explore, as you’ll find hidden references to Horror Movies and Monsters of the past. Some will be more apparent than others, but there are over 30 references in the stretch of Layers Of Fear 2. If you’re lucky, you might just figure out what the link between Layers of Fear and Layers of Fear 2 is….

Careful in the darkness, it can make you go mad…

Layers of Fear is exactly what the title says, layers of your fears. One upon the other, forced into tandem as you experience the darkness that surrounds and expels from your soul. Layers has a unique feature, that you can choose the pivotal points in the story. You, the ‘Actor’ will have to choose between your morals or your gain. Will you save yourself, reach the deck and feel sunlight against your skin again? Will you succumb to the cries of children? Your choices are important and can impact your gameplay, heavily. Will you refuse the beautiful darkness that Tony Todd speaks softly to you? Layers of Fear 2 is an amazing psychological thriller game that takes you in-depth of horror history and it’s building blocks. From the visuals to the story, to the sound, Layers of Fear 2 has encompassed that of which makes a horror game, a horror game.

DVS HARLECHAN REVIEW: 8.5/10

E3 Is Cancelled. Good, Here’s What the ESA Can Do to Bring It Back to Prosperity

For the first time since 1996, there will not be an Electronic Entertainment Expo to call home. The Entertainment Software Association (or the ESA, for short), confirmed the news on Wednesday morning, citing “growing concerns over (the) COVID-19 virus,” or Coronavirus as it’s more commonly known. As a result, it’s now “exploring options with our members to coordinate an online experience to showcase industry announcements and news in June 2020.”

Now, here’s the thing. The coronavirus is definitely a reason why the show eventually went the way of the dodo this year. But leading up to that, many were questioning what it should’ve been anyway. With Sony pulling out for a second consecutive year and many companies wondering if it was worth it, the ESA previously noted that it would come back with an all-new take on what people expected from the show. This followed a previous data leak of over 2,000 journalists and other attendees, which the company still has yet to apologize for.

This newly focused show would’ve originally included “surprise guests, stage experiences, access to insiders, and experimental zones,” going against the mantra of what the show was known for in the first place. That means focus on games, game developers, and game hype. Instead, it sounded like E3 was headed in a disastrously worse direction, leading many to wonder if the show was still needed. Alas, that doesn’t appear to be the case.

Despite E3’s cancellation, this gives a chance to the ESA to refocus and bring the show back to basics. We’ve recommended a few things that it can do to win over the community again, because, boy, does it need to.

First off, the apology. It noted that it was aware of the data leak that took place last year, but not once did it say it was sorry for the error. Honestly, this goes a long way. By acknowledging a mistake and saying, “We’re ready to win back your trust” instead of hiring some outside security agency to protect its assets, it repairs the bridge that it burned down once the data leak took place.

The second thing? Get back Geoff Keighley. Say what you will, but Keighley is a prominent figure in the E3 scene. When he announced he wouldn’t return to the show last month because it wasn’t the same event he remembered, that was a colossal blow. Now that the show will take an online stance this year, it’s a good opportunity to mend that relationship and have him host an E3 online special, done his way. As he’s proven with the Video Game Awards and the Gamescom presentation in the past, doing things his way totally works.

Microsoft will still have something in store for gamers. But will it be like this?

And then? Forget the hoopla. We understand that E3 is trying to do things in the way of the Penny Arcade Expo. But let’s be fair – it’s not PAX. It’s an industry show. That’s what many people recognize it for, that’s what it needs to be. Part of these Coronavirus fears come from the fact that the show is more packed than it needs to be. We know that the ESA wants to make money from the public, but this is the wrong way to do it.

A separate event. Some activities surrounding the event, like what Microsoft has done with its pavilion. Doing stuff that will have people feeling the E3 mantra without actually being at E3 itself. There are smarter ways to do this. And now that the show is on the shelf for the next year, the ESA can knuckle down and take it back to basics. It needs to if it’s going to win over the trust of attendees again.

And do away with the business plan of “experimental zones.” Really? Is this a children’s museum? No, it’s E3. That means having games that fill up space and not necessarily energy drink dance parties like what took over the floor last year. This is a matter of focusing on games and giving everyone a chance to show off what they’ve got coming in the next year.

That means lowering rates. We know the Convention Center in L.A. isn’t a cheap space to host an event, but it worked so well in the past. So, make use of every corner of its building. By that, we mean this: bring back Kentia Hall and the weird, wonderful developers that can’t afford the typical floor space or the private meeting rooms. Bring back the back halls where smaller companies can provide a good hosting spot. Hell, bring back Naughty America and get people talking again. (Once more, make this an industry event and not something where the kids can go in and accidentally brush into, say, Dr. Disrespect.)

Sigh. We’ll definitely miss this mantra. For now.

This is your chance, ESA. Make June’s showcase something special with Geoff Keighley, Melonie Mac and all the talent you can muster to get people excited for games. Then reshuffle your deck and make the show what it should have been for the last few years, complete with all the games you can carry and the open opportunities for everyone – smaller developers included – to thoroughly enjoy. Make E3 E3 again, if that makes sense.

Meanwhile, we’ll see you in the chat rooms for the virtual presentation in June. Hopefully, it won’t be overloaded with “experimental zones.”