To me, the hallmark of a good work of fiction is the feeling of emptiness I feel when I complete it. Being severed from a well-constructed fantasy should induce a moment of existential panic in even the most stoic of men. By that metric, Bastion, a video game from Supergiant Games currently on offer for a mere $15, has one of the best stories I’ve encountered in at least a year.
Mass Effect 3 has been one of the most eagerly-awaited games of 2012 by a long shot. The first two games are among the most beloved sci-fi action-RPGs of all time, and expectations for the third installment were running high. Luckily for fans, the finale to this epic trilogy manages to meet most of the expectations.
If you played the original Borderlands and liked it enough to do a second playthrough, there is no point in reading this review past the next sentence. Borderlands 2 is worth its cost at $60; it has everything the original has, plus a real plot and an almost seamless co-op multiplayer experience.
One of my earliest memories as a gamer is from the age of 10, playing XCOM: Terror From The Deep (1996). I didn’t own the game — some neighbors did — but when I’d finished my chores (and sometimes when I hadn’t), I’d bike over to their house and hijack their computer for as long as was socially acceptable (and sometimes longer) to fight the alien invasion.
It’s rare to come across a proper stealth game these days — by which I mean it is so rare that it’s hard to know if what I consider good stealth games are even stealth games at all. Maybe it’s the stealth genre that I dislike, and I just happen to enjoy a couple games that call themselves stealth games.
When I was 10 years old, my favorite game in the world was SimCity 2000. I was fanatical about it — I spent whole weekends planning out city blocks on sheets of graphing paper and testing them to see which was the most efficient. I spent so many hours on the simulation that it’s possible it sowed the seeds of my political leanings.
Typically when I write a video game review, my focus is on answering the question, “Should you buy this, and if so, for how much?” This framework works fairly well for video games, but not as well for books or movies or music or the Mona Lisa. Some things you don’t review so much as you critique. You can judge a work’s creative merit, but trying to translate that merit into dollars and cents is futile.
Ever since I started reviewing for The Tech, I’ve found myself liking new game releases less and less. And this change has made me wonder: does reviewing a game as you play it lessen the experience? Or am I growing into a person who doesn’t like video games? Or is it neither, and today’s games are just not as exciting and fun as games of old were? I stayed up at night, searching for my gamer soul, hoping that Far Cry 3 was indeed boring and I wasn’t evolving into some ghastly sort of — shudder — non-gamer.
First person shooters have always been one of my favorite genres of video game. I grew up at a time when computing technology was just starting to meet the challenge of inexpensively rendering a shooter. As a kid, I was weaned on a generation of post-Doom titles, like Quake II, Counter Strike, and Team Fortress Classic, and for a time, the mere improvement of hardware was enough to keep the genre exciting. Each iteration of the first person shooter produced higher and higher graphical quality, and I didn’t spend much time lamenting that the gameplay and plot of Crysis was not many steps beyond that of Goldeneye 007.
I have something of a love-hate relationship with the 4X (eXplore/eXpand/eXploit/eXterminate) genre. The typical 4X game is an uneasy marriage of amazing strategic depth, the grandeur of empire, and tedious micromanagement. As a consequence I find myself in a cycle where I develop a desire to play a 4X game, binge for some period of time, and then quit the genre for months after getting burned out navigating menus.
There’s a feeling in the pit of my stomach when I reach the end of a really good book. It’s hard for me to describe it to another person unless they too have felt it before — it’s like emptiness, a dull pain, a longing for the story to continue. It’s a shock to the system, a natural psychological response to having the environment and characters that you’ve immersed yourself in suddenly ripped away. It’s an absolutely horrible sensation and if, in the future, I forbid my children from going to school and decide that they should remain illiterate for all of their days, you won’t have to look further than this paragraph to know my motive.
“I’m sorry guys, it’s not good,” says a man in glasses and a button-down shirt, hesitance in his voice. He’s seated next to a woman holding a clipboard, her head tilted in sympathy at the receivers of this ‘not-good’ news. They are addressing our main characters, arranged on a couch facing them: a husband, a wife, and a small child who happens to be the unwitting subject of the conversation.
Legend has it that when the world is nearing its final demise, the Harbinger will appear and prevent its end. In 'Omensight,' you play as this supernatural last resort. The death of the Godless Priestess means the loss of the only power keeping back the dark forces of the Void, and when you’re thrown into the game, the Void incarnate, Volden, has already been summoned to devour the world.
Through its surrealism and hyperrealism, Anamorphine redefines the emotional capacity of the video game. Walking in the main character’s shoes, players confronts fear, loss, and heartbreak in a narrative steeped in feeling and the realities of human life.
Decades after the founding of Rynoka and the discovery of five dungeon gates, you play as Will, a young and adventurous shopkeeper. By day, Will maintains Moonlighter, the shop passed down to him by his old man; but by night, he dives into the Golem Dungeon to fulfill his dreams of someday becoming a true hero.
Ninjin: Clash of Carrots is a beat ’em up game about a ninja rabbit out for vengeance after his entire village’s crop is stolen. Providing a rather interesting challenge, the game forces you to think about stamina use, equipment loadout, and strategy.
At initial glance, the beta test of 'Russian Subway Dogs' by Spooky Squid Games Inc. is fun-to-play, charming, and quirky in its art style and character but has a high learning curve (for an average gamer like me) from level to level.
Super Mario Party brings back the beloved Mario Party game series with better gameplay, innovative usage of the Nintendo Switch console, and a multitude of modes. A classic party game, Super Mario Party can be played with up to four players for rounds of strategic and exhilarating fun.
Set in the world of the 1970s automobile industry and taking influences from 1970s television, The Low Road has an undeniable charm to it, from the groovy, head-bobbing soundtrack (courtesy of Eric Cheng) to the character design. The witty dialogue between characters also works well in setting a good first impression, leading players to quickly understand the nuanced personalities of every character introduced throughout the game.
Inspired by the ‘Legend of Zelda’ franchise, ‘Sparklite’ is an adorable and fun addition to the roguelike genre. The developers had the idea of framing it as an “approachable roguelike,” taking inspiration from ‘Rogue Legacy’ in the game’s mechanics and fitting the game onto an adventure story-based premise.
A deep, dark, slimy Corruption threatens to take over, holding the potential to plunge the world into an all-consuming abyss, and the only thing that stands in its way is the Bergson family, tasked with an ancestral duty to banish the Corruption by striking at its source in Mount Morta.
Considering ‘A Fold Apart’ is Lightning Rod Games’ first foray into the world, I will give them credit for creating an honest portrayal of the hardships of a long-distance relationship as well as creating a puzzle game with unique mechanics, but I would have expected smoother gameplay since the team consists of industry veterans.
Tonally, ‘Superliminal’ reminds me of ‘The Stanley Parable,’ where the protagonist explores a mysteriously empty office building at the behest (or in spite) of an omniscient narrator. The ‘Superliminal’ player doesn’t have as much freedom as ‘The Stanley Parable’ player, but both games give a vibe of constant unnerve and the story spiraling into nonsense.