Spelunky: No More Mines For Me (Review)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012 at 10:00 am

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Armed with a few bombs and some rope, my adventurer trekked off in search of treasure, mystery, and the odd damsel in distress to save. The bombs and rope make reaching areas possible, the treasure adds up quickly, and the mystery is near nonexistent. While I appreciated the option of choosing my damsel type (the pug dog was a nice touch), I wasn't too keen on the knocking-them-out-to-take-them-out-of-the-dungeon part. Despite this, things were going smoothly enough, and I was almost to the end of the level. Then, just as I was about to depart with my dog in tow, I landed on a spike trap and died in an explosion of fuchsia-colored blood for what was, by my count, the thirtieth time.

This is the experience of playing Spelunky, a game with a nostalgic art style, randomly generated dungeons, and some of the most patience-testing gameplay I've ever encountered. This is a game that seemed to be mocking me from the moment I beat the tutorial.

With an unforgivingly high difficulty curve, Spelunky is all about punishing you as a player from the moment you're set loose into the game, as with each deadly misstep you make, you find yourself returned to the very beginning of a level, to experience it all over again, with the platform areas completely reorganized, and no easily memorized path to the exit, or any hints on how to make this easier. There is no experience gained or lost from the gameplay, but the repeated attempts at completing stages is not very rewarding, and, in fact, had me abandoning the game on two or three occasions out of pure frustrations.

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Appreciating the Flaws

Monday, July 2, 2012 at 1:00 pm

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Being able to find the flaws in something you appreciate is a difficult task. I've found errors in my favorite short stories and novels, and I am forced to take a drastically different look at the works. By looking critically at something, we can ease it into the acceptable, broad-termed realm of 'art'. Since video games constantly teeter on the line between 'art' and 'not art', they warrant the same amount of scrutiny offered to our other artsy works. Video game narratives deserve further critical viewings, just as film and television stories are critiqued and studied for what they do right, as well as what they do wrong.

 

Some studios have built their reputations on their ability to tell grand stories. However, the ability to tell consistently good stories across multiple games, not necessarily in a series, is not guaranteed. With inconsistency comes awareness of it; when people are aware of plot holes, they want to dig deeper into them. In any form of entertainment, be it television, movie, book, or video game, if there's a plot continuity error, I personally want to figure out how it got there.

 

Back in March, I wrote a reactionary response to a proposed 'new ending' for the controversial Mass Effect 3. With the extended ending's release this past week, I found that whatever initial irritations I had were unfounded, and I think the extended cut offers some closure that is otherwise absent from the original ending. It's also forced me to reassess how I feel about this game series as a whole.


I appreciated the original ending of Mass Effect 3. I thought it encouraged the gamer to use his or her imagination and creativity to fill in the gaps and leave it be. Giving it a tougher look, nearly three months later, it becomes apparent that Mass Effect's overall, consistent story is kind of a mess.

 

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