Tag Archives: videogames

/Twerk: Busy Badgers

Some badgers just want to watch the world burn.

Some badgers just want to watch the world burn.

Freelancing full time means that I’ve had to move away from — or at least spend less time on — the kinds of bizarre-o criticism and essays I cut my teeth on. My professional career started at the Sewanee Review, for example, and it’s not every Gears of War piece that opens with a T. S. Eliot epigraph.  Until recently, getting weird was my go-to critical lens, where “weird” means anything  besides consumer-facing previews and reviews.

Instead, in an effort to flex some under-used muscle (and also feed myself) I’ve been reviewing a lot, with a brief Icelandic séjour to cover CCP’s Fanfest.

Continue reading

Advertisements

/Scraps: Master of Dungeon

From earlier this month, here’s another review, forever damned to un-publishability, of  a game that I didn’t care for: it’s not bad, but it’s not inventive or interesting or engaging, either.

While unwieldy, Master of Dungeon‘s  title can be forgiven: it’s descriptive and accurate — this is, in fact, a dungeon-crawling RPG. And the specific misuse of English gerunds in the game’s marketing (“Feel the thrilled battle of beating!”) marks it as an Asian product (in this case, South Korean), even before the chibi-sized sprites drive the message home.

Master of Dungeon‘s choppy syntax may be part of its Engrish charm, but in a game with so many systems at play, it’s a nuisance. There’s an in-game economy, of course, with a handful of merchants and mongers in a hub town hawking wares, but there’s also item crafting and deconstruction, two different upgrade systems, and an expansive in-app purchasing scheme. There are two problems here, the first of which is that the writing in Master of Dungeon is butchered badly enough to render any tutorial or instruction inscrutable — the only way to get the hang of these mechanics is repetition and trial and error.

Continue reading

/Scraps: Kids vs. Goblins

Sometimes, the things you write don’t get published, and they languish in some site’s CMS like a forgotten doll. This is one of those times, from March: a review of an iOS game I didn’t particularly like but found interesting in terms of execution.

Goblin anatomy

The funny thing about Kids vs Goblins  is that it understands something vital about Pokemon that sham companies and cloners like Qeab haven’t taken the time to grasp.

Kids vs Goblins differs wildly in form and function from Nintendo’s oddly prolific pocket monster sim, but it nails the conceit: in the same way that Pokemon sanitizes and bowdlerizes  cock fighting, Kids vs Goblins whitewashes its dingos-ate-my-baby narrative about cannibalistic goblins and the fact that its stars a ten-year-old with a spiked warhammer.

Continue reading

/Scraps: Soccer as Street Fighter

I wrote this several years ago as a scattershot attempt to address some of the questions that would later be used as the basis for an interview with Aaron McHardy, lead FIFA designer at EA Canada, published by Paste Magazine last month.

It’s unfocused and weird, but I figured I may as well share.

I mained Sakura for a while in Super Street Fighter IV. Underpowered, but so fun and fluid.

Sakura

Sports games occupy a strange and troubled position the games industry’s caste system. They’re generally reviled by the self-identified hardcore, despite selling well and representing one of the few examples of traditional games left in the industry. Games demand multiple players following the same sets of rules, a test that, say, Call of Duty’s single-player campaign fails.

Real-time strategy  and fighting games pass this test as well as sports games do, but series like Madden and FIFA are the most visible and well-marketed example of traditional gaming.

It’s also worth noting that the nascent mixed-martial arts genre—no doubt standing on the back of the professional wrestling games that blossomed during the mid-1990s—effectively blurs the line between the fighting and sports genres. This seems pretty obvious.

A subtler observation: sports games can act as fulcrum of design a whole.

Here, I defer to Margaret Robertson, who prompted my line of thinking almost three years ago:

Here’s a game design conundrum for you: what do Halo and football have in common? . . .

Continue reading

/Ceci n’est pas une action RPG: On Mage Gauntlet

The consensus on Mage Gauntlet —  RocketCat’s promotional literature, the TouchArcade review that sold me on the game, various forums is that it’s an action RPG. We have, however, been sold a bill of goods: Mage Gauntlet has more in common with River City Ransom than it does with Secret of Mana.

The problem is that the game’s visual style, theme, and mechanics have all been perceived as belonging to the categorical definition of action RPG: Mage Gauntlet takes place in a fantasy setting, and a couple of the underlying systems are governed by a set of stats affected by equippable items. The SNES-inspired art direction only reinforces the misconception.

So it’s true that Mage Gauntlet plays a bit like Secret of Mana, but the granular experience ultimately presents itself much differently.

Continue reading

/Aeris

In a 2003 interview with Edge magazine, Yoshinori Kitase explains the motivation behind Aeris’ death. “Death comes suddenly and there is no notion of good or bad attached to it. It leaves, not a dramatic feeling but a great emptiness. When you lose someone you loved very much you feel this big empty space and think, ‘If I had known this was coming, I would have done things differently.’ These are the feelings I wanted to arouse in the players with Aerith’s death relatively early in the game.”

The number of people looking for ways to bring her back to life, or to save her from dying, suggests the team was successful. Fans felt loss—but instead of just thinking about the things they would have done differently, they tried them all, and hoped that they would save her from dying.

Looking for a way to stop Aeris’ death or to resurrect her after she’s gone—they’re both ways of dealing with loss. So is blaming Square for killing her, or Sony for keeping Square from seeing its vision to its completion. And so is refusing to give up almost to the point of blindness, the idea that trying anything is better than nothing.

— Brian Taylor, “Save Aeris,” for Kill Screen

/Twerk: Gears of War 3

The following is a large chunk of the RAAM’s Shadow review that I left on the cutting room floor — not because I don’t think the topics aren’t salient, but for the crime of inelegance. It follows a discussion of the ways the DLC fails to expand on RAAM’s character:

Continue reading