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Joystiq hands-on: PAIN's Sore Spots (now with Daxter!)

Kevin Kelly

PAIN has come a long way since launching with just one level, two characters, and no online multiplayer. It's managed to rank at the top of PSN downloads through a consistent stream of content add-ons, which -- you guessed it -- have added new levels, new characters, and online multiplayer. We got our hands on the next update, the "Sore Spots" level pack, and its new characters at Sony's recent Gamers' Day in Los Angeles.

Read on for our full preview and to find out what's coming next from developer Idol Minds. (HInt: A heckuva lot more crotch-related agony.)

Gallery: Pain: Sore Spots and New Characters | 15 Photos

The pack includes two new levels: Morningwood High and Area 69.

The good news about Sore Spots is that Idol Minds has continued in the same open-structured direction as the previous Movie Lot and Abusement Park scenario updates. The update includes not one, but two new levels: Morningwood High (Home of the Cougars, naturally) and Area 69. Both levels feature gameplay that isn't simply focused on a long, continuous straight-shot.

Area 69 takes places inside an enormous government lab, complete with an entire spaceship, antigravity lifts, multiple explosive points, and even aliens that you can launch into. (There's also a bizarre leprechaun-pirate thingy -- if you're into that sorta thing.) Area 69 one ginormous room, instead of an open space, but there are plenty of obstacles and elements to keep you busy. Simiarly, Morningwood High takes places inside a single room, in this case a gymnasium, but is smaller in scope. Of course, there's a lot of gym-related pain and humor, including a smashable, glass basketball backboard and a poor dork you can knock off the rope climb.

Both levels feature more attention to detail than Idol Minds' previous efforts, and also add new gameplay modes like Mad Science, where you have to launch two explosive chemical jugs into each other, and a new multiplayer mode called Pain Olympics, inspired by the PAIN blog's community suggestions. The mode features five to nine different events like giant horseshoes, bullriding, anvil throwing, and a pimp-slap relay race for two to four players online.

New characters include a zombie, a bunny suit for Kenneth and ... Daxter!

New characters include a highly-requested zombie, this one's dubbed the "Ded Baron" (downloadable for free correction, Sony giveth and taketh away, and we were just told that the Ded Baron will set you back .99 cents), a new Bunny Suit for existing character Kenneth, and ... Daxter! Yes, you can now launch poor Daxter, the ottsel from Naughty Dog's Jak and Daxter series, into certain doom. The PAIN community wanted some more "familiar faces" (besides Buzz), and based on their recommendations, Idol Minds went to Naughty Dog who was receptive to the idea. We asked if "serious" characters, like Nathan Drake or Kratos, could ever make it into the game, and while associate producer Jason Coker said he wasn't sure if those character types would fit the sensibility of the game, the studio would push for such cameos if the community demanded it. Hey, it works in LittleBigPlanet ...

Coker gave us a few more details about Idol Minds' upcoming plans, dropping news that a museum level and new characters will be coming in late June or July. The studio is also working on a prototype for a new game that's still under wraps, but Coker assured us that when it's announced people will say, "Ah, that makes sense." The mystery project won't necessarily be a downloadable title, but that's all we could beat ... er, coax out of Coker.

"I consider this one of the dumbest games I've ever played" -- Jason Coker, Assoc. Producer

We also asked about plans for a PSP version of PAIN, to which Coker responed: "You know, we've had people ask about it ... we don't have any plans for it right now, but if one of the big dogs asks for it, we'd definitely work on it. I'm going to ask some questions about that and see if we can make it happen." Besides producing the game, Coker is also a fan. "I consider this one of the dumbest games I've ever played ... it's just pure silliness," admits Coker. "It just really fits my sense of humor. We're all a bunch of immature children. It's a great drinking game ... I could write a book about the different ways you could play this as a drinking game. Maybe I'll publish the rules somewhere where only those 21 and over can download them."

The bottom line: if you like PAIN (the video game), you'll enjoy the added levels and characters. If you don't like PAIN, then you probably didn't watch America's Funniest Home Videos, either.

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