Thursday, January 29, 2015

Spoiler Alert Review: A Platformer Played in Reverse

As I was growing up, platform jumping titles were so common for me and my friends that they were the only type of game to not have a separate designation. Excite bike was a "racing game", baseball was a "sports game", but all the Mario titles were just "games".  In fact, the first time someone explained the concept of a platformer to me, I was shocked that this was it's own, separately named, game type.  Sometimes, it's hard to classify one of the game modes that was once the normal go-to for years.

While the platform title has dropped a bit in popularity, there are still plenty of standout titles that come out year after year, mostly on the indie scene. The last few years have, for example, given us Braid and Super Meat Boy among others, proving that one of the older institutes in gaming can still reinvent itself in order to entertain us.  Now, Spoiler Alert attempts to take classic platforming convention and turn it upside down. Or at least, backwards. 
The tagline says it all, really

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Endless Day, And Hope for Game Development Everywhere

There is a lot of complaints about the state of the gaming industry these days.  About how there are too many sequels dominating the AAA market, how poorly developers are treated by publishing groups... the list of grievances goes on as what started as a small subculture has turned into a way of life for many people across the world.  However, there is perhaps one complaint that is being heard above the rest recently: too many games are being released unfinished.  How games like Assassin's Creed: Unity are being released with plagues of bugs, or how the Master Chief Collection came out.

There's an upside though, that isn't always talked about to this new phenomenon: the fact that many companies realize that their games are never quite truly finished, that they can continue to go back and rebuild, retool, and keep creating.  Thanks to the easy way to digitally patch games, some developers are realizing that their games can become living works of art, ideas that can continually be modified, adapted, and kept fresh.

The jaded would say this is a money making ploy, a scheme to keep players purchasing more content.  In some cases, this is very much true, the real reason behind constant patches and new paid DLC.  For others however, it really is about the universes they've created, and making them better.  One of the best examples of this is the most recent: Amplitude studios, and the advent of an event they call the Endless Day.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Poker Night 2 - The Unnecessary Review for the Unnecessary Sequel

Have you ever said to yourself, "I want to play high-stakes poker with Brock Samson (Venture Bros), Claptrap (Borderlands), Ash Williams (Evil Dead / Army of Darkness), and Sam (Sam & Max)?" Me neither.

'nuff said. And yes, GlaDOS is the dealer.
Therefore, I've now added Poker Night 2 to the list of things I never knew I needed.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Unholy Heights Review: A Cute Distraction

I don't know about you, but sometimes, I need a break.  Sometimes, I don't need to feel like I'm controlling entire armies or galaxies.  Sometimes, I don't need to be a lone action hero, fighting my way through an alien army. Something like Dark Souls is great, but games like that, where half the fun is the stress, the self-improvement at a discipline, can sometimes feel as stressful as work or that household project you've had in the back of your mind for the last few months.

That's when a game like Unholy Heights comes in, acting as a palate cleanser.  A game you can pick up for fifteen minutes on a break, or an hour while watching a show with friends.  Sure, you are a devil, and you are trying to create an army of monsters... but let's be honest, you're doing it by creating an apartment complex.  The first monsters you can hire are large chicken like people, and some of the more dangerous ones are spell-casting teddy bears.

This is a cute, fun, and quite silly game that still has plenty to keep your attention, making sure you are having fun.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Lichdom: Battlemage - The Review In Which The Mage Always Wins

Lichdom: Battlemage is a game created with a single goal in mind: making a mage who is as powerful as a mage should be. The game's developer, Xaviant, explained that they were doing this by eliminating what they believe to be artificial restrictions on magic-users, including things like limited mana pools, spell recharge times, and low durability. By making a game your only option is a magic-user, all of the reasons why you don't automatically pick a magic-user in every game ever suddenly go out the window. Xaviant promised to let you play as a mage who is, to use their own words, a badass. Boy, did they ever deliver.

My first experience with Lichdom: Battlemage was at PAX East 2014 where, along with Wyatt and some of our other friends, we were given an excellent presentation and allowed to play a polished, fully-functional demo of the game. Wyatt wrote an in-depth review of our experience, and it took a game I had heard nothing about and transformed it into a must buy.  It was obviously something that had been made to be fun, and something created to let you lay waste to thousands of foes.  Why wouldn't I like it?

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Dungeon of the Endless Review: Does A Game Really Need a Genre?

How do I explain a game like Dungeon of the Endless in a rational, logical manner?  Here we have a game that purposefully, gleefully breaks genre molds and shatters expectations; the game play willfully created by the developers to fly in the face of as many conceived notions of various game tropes as possible.  Yet, each little deviation this game creates makes it more memorable, more of a cohesive whole, not muddled and confused.

Dungeon of the Endless is a game that defies easy classification, but that's what makes it so great. The first time you watch your prisoners crash land aboard this strange alien plant and attempt to escape into its depths, you feel scared, lost, and confused... much like the prisoners you play as probably do as they scrap together protective lasers and weapons out of the junk they find.  There's something else though, a feeling that grows as you keep playing, as you keep opening doors looking for exits:  Hope. Anticipation.  Excitement.

This game has hooked me, not just with a gimmick or one particular well-crafted element, but because its simply well made, through and through.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Games for Good Causes: Blending Hedonism with Community

Sometimes, good intentions can lead to interesting results.  That is all I could keep thinking as I looked over the Kickstarter concept for Blood Sport.  How else do you approach the idea of turning a video game console into a blood bank factory?

Take a look at the now suspended Kickstarter page, and its a beautiful mixture of 'what a concept!' and 'What the heck were you thinking?!'.  In two ways, these guys are trying to fulfill something awesome: the ability to inspire more blood donations, and also the ability to play more daring versions of a game.  Don't lie, a lot of people have had that thought of "How do we make a Mortal Combat more high stakes?  How do we turn the screws to make this event feel more memorable?"  If you went a gaming tournament where every time you took a big hit, blood was drawn, how would it make you feel when you came out of it victorious?

Weirdest alternative to betting on a game ever.
...But wait, how would it make you feel if you came out of it losing?  If you walked into a gaming event where you knew you would lose blood from your arm every time you took a hit, and you knew that your friend Jon could absolutely destroy you in Towerfall: Ascension, would you join, or walk away?  What happens when the person who is wrecking at the tournament spends an hour hooked up to a blood transfusion machine, and has a bag barely full: isn't that a waste of resources?  What happens when a bag starts to overfill during a particularly rough round of Call of Duty with multiple players?

The questions go on and on about the idea of Blood Sport, but in the end, while the premise itself is plagued with logistics issues, the heart of it is in the right place.  How can gaming be used to support charitable and community based movements?