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.!--EndFragment-->!--StartFragment-->
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.
If I were a devoted man of some god, I might say that divine intervention offered me a review of the new Kinect-ready, XBLA game Babel Rising. I might also say how strange such an opportunity is - because this is the second time in a year that I've been offered a game centered on the powers of a god. (I reviewed From Dust. Read it here.)
I might be over-thinking the coincidence now. Babel Rising doesn't want me to do that. It wants me to be OK with going through the motions of God and and its almighty powers. I obliged for the sake of this review, but I found more boredom than humor, although I did find a small thrill in acting like an omnipresent force.
|Mass Effect 3's Extended Cut DLC -- will it provide closure?|
In the immortal words of the comedian Eddie Izzard, I have what is known as "technojoy, not technofear." I understand his statement as embracing technology, machinery, and the bizarre with the awesome, all in the name of furthering us humans into the cyber age. I'm all for it. I will embrace the tech. I have no fear of it.
I appreciate technology, I truly do. Working with my chosen medium of entertainment, books, puts me at odds with technology every day, but I still love books, and I adore tech. As a gamer, I admire technology more than some people, and as a reader, I think too much about gaming narratives and mechanics, and how they fit together. I can escape neither the printed word nor technology on a daily basis, and so I have simply chosen to embrace each with equal relish. I like old school books; I like new technology. I am in the prime place to find the happy medium between my "technojoy" and my love of books.
I came to terms with the fact that I can live blissfully in the techy world of games and hardware, bleeps and blips, controllers and cables, while still functioning in the world of ladders, shelving, paper and ink. I can also carry heavy boxes of books from one end of a building to the other without having to stop for a rest. So there's that bonus too.
Until I was scoping out e-readers the other day, I'd thought that I had found my way to live peacefully in both worlds, the world of tech and the world of the printed word. I sell books by day; I game by night. These are two worlds and I live happily in both. Now, I'm suddenly not so sure I can have one without the other, and it's all the fault of an e-reader.
Some were pretty horrible. Zeus spent quite a bit of time making Kratos' life a living hell in the God of War series. And then there's Dracula from Castlevania, whose own son sought to destroy him. And what about Resident Evil's Wesker? That dude was a real monster (literally). Chances are once again pretty good that the chapters devoted to his son in Resident Evil 6 will be devoted to hunting him down and wiping him from the face of the Earth. Unless Wesker is actually dead this time, which I have a hard time believing.
Dads can make decent villains. Then again, the guys can be pretty dang awesome heroes, too. Continue on, dear reader, as we take a look at some of my favorite dads in the world of video games.
Just like George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones, the eponymous video game presents an epic tale of traitors, familial turmoil and darkness spreading across the Seven Kingdoms. But unlike the book, the game's style is a little disenchanting, whereas its story is enchanting. It's like a book or a narrative with interesting characters and a high-stakes conflict yet one that contains poor grammar. Still, if you like the book and the subsequent TV series, you might enjoy the game, developed by Cyanide and published by Atlus. It's a role-playing game for Game of Thrones fans, which is why I have a stake in it. Those who haven't galloped through Martin's fantasy might feel a weaker connection to it.
|We all knew Civilization II was fun -- but ten years fun?|
Have you found something missing from your gaming life recently? Have you wanted something to seize your attention for several hours of pure, unadulterated action, with enough story to keep you going, a furiously polished experience that will not lose your focus? If you are seeking something to tide you over during the summer lull, I humbly submit Sega's Binary Domain for your consideration.Like a fusion of the film 'I, Robot', Transformers, and Gears of War, with a remarkably intelligent story that muses on survival, trust, and what defines a person as a human being, Binary Domain is all the robot-shredding science fiction goodness you can handle. An extremely well-paced narrative compensates for third-person-cover-shooter mechanics, and archetypical characters are saved from mediocrity by a familiar cast of anime and game veterans. A self-aware sense of humor, consistently visceral action, and intense boss fights keep this game interesting.