“Walking simulators” have become a notoriously divisive genre over the years, garnering both love for their way of telling an interactive story, and criticism for the general lack of purpose said interaction tends to involve. Branching off this, I like to consider Debris a “swimming simulator”; sure, you have the added ability to move vertically, but the gameplay still very much consists of, “Keep moving forward while being fed assorted storytelling bits”. This is by no means a bad thing, as ABZÛ – one of my favourite games in recent memory – arguably also falls into this category. Unfortunately, whereas ABZÛ was a consistently wondrous experience that left me practically begging for more, Debris is…well, we’ll get into that.
Louis de Richet and Sarah – his mother – are members of the mysterious Golden Order. What exactly this entails is currently shrouded in mystery, though hints of backdoor art deals, occultism, and sleuthing abound. After Sarah pays a visit to the island of a Lord Mortimer, Louis receives a letter, claiming that his mother has disappeared. Eager to find out what’s going on, Louis makes his way to the island, where he finds that his mother was far from the only person summoned. In the absence of Lord Mortimer (whom everyone claims is “occupied”), Louis must interact with Mortimer’s enigmatic guests, in the hopes of discovering what fate befell his mother, who exactly their host is, and why personalities such as George Washington and Napoleon Bonaparte have been gathered on the curious island.
“I’m sorry, what?”
That was my first reaction upon receiving a press email about de Blob 2’s release on current-gen consoles. The inaugural title was a Wii exclusive which – while attention-grabbing to my 13-year-old mind at the time – ended up becoming little more than another bargain basement platformer in the Wii’s sea of them. Hell, I was pleasantly surprised when it got a multiplatform sequel in 2011. Yet when not a peep was heard about the franchise afterwards (following publisher THQ’s closure in 2013), I had pretty much accepted that it was all over for Blob and friends.
Myths and legends are frequently the basis for elements of games, be it their plotline, characters, setting, or some mix. However, these are usually components cherry-picked from a larger narrative, serving less as a means of introducing the audience to the original piece, and more as scaffolding to support the world created by the developers. In contrast, nearly every element of Mulaka feels like it was designed to honour and bring attention to the traditions and culture of the Tarahumara people. Yet rather than being little more than an elaborate Wikipedia page, Mulaka sucks you in with its vibrant world, and does everything it can to keep your attention until after the credits have finished rolling.
“Now I am become Viking, the destroyer of board games.” I made this remark while discussing Wartile in a bored, semi-inebriated stupor with a friend of mine. In hindsight, I find it to be utterly nonsensical – I certainly meant it to be at the time. Yet I still find it to be less bewildering than some of the design decisions that went into Wartile.
Exploration. Discovery. These are terms which frequently find themselves thrown around when a game stimulates any sense of curiosity. And yet, they tend to be ancillary features in whichever game they appear in. Exploring the open worlds of Assassin’s Creed or Breath of the Wild is certainly a way to pass the time in each game, but they’re not the focus; there are quests to complete, baddies to hunt down, and so forth.
To say that Black Mirror is the video game equivalent of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room feels like it may be a slightly overexaggerated claim. And yet, I’m hard-pressed to think of another recent title that created such utter hilarity out of situations that were meant to be dramatic and horrifying. Scenes that tried to focus on familial interactions and supernatural occurrences had me snickering at technical missteps. An intense scene of someone getting stabbed in the neck did little more than make me laugh hysterically. Thankfully, this meant that it wasn’t an experience devoid of enjoyment, and yet it’s still far and away from being a good game in any capacity.
Believe it or not, the PlayStation 4 celebrated its 4th birthday last year, which meant Killzone Shadow Fall – a launch title for the console – did as well. The hype has come and gone. Guerrilla Games went on to create Horizon: Zero Dawn: a game that is not only widely considered better than Shadow Fall, but was hailed as one of the best titles of 2017. Yet here I am, writing about this practically ancient game as though anyone still cares what some pundit thinks about Shadow Fall at this point. Then again, there are still people playing its multiplayer, so obviously there’s some interest in the title. Plus, I just got a PS4, and this was one of the titles I traded my pack-in copy of Star Wars Battlefront II for. Sue me for having an urge to talk about it.
I’ll be up front about this: Tower 57 is one of those games that I just didn’t quite get. Now, don’t get me wrong: I enjoy twin-stick shooters. I also quite liked the dieselpunk aesthetic of the whole thing; it’s a style that you don’t see too often, and it was a nice change of pace. Plus, the pixel art was so intricately detailed that it made me want to kiss my fingers like a chef. And yet, the game was just…there. The story seemed like it wanted to be darkly humorous, but was largely bland and generic, with characters coming and going too fast to break out of a single personality dimension. The gameplay was straightforward and made perfect sense…until it didn’t. It’s a game which I continually felt like I should enjoy, but I was never able to truly cross the threshold into legitimately finding enjoyment in it. As a result, this is going to be one of those reviews that I write as much for myself as anyone else; I just need to get my thoughts in order to see what went wrong in Tower 57.
Half Life 3? Not happening. Portal 3? You wish. Valve’s longstanding reputation for teasing and never releasing sequels meant that the announcement of Bridge Constructor Portal was met with a…mixed response, to say the least. Really, though, I’d say that it’s a net positive, as I’d rather see Valve handing its licenses to other devs for spin-off purposes than hoarding them like a dragon with so much gold. If it results in more games like Bridge Constructor Portal, well, so much the better!
Every gaming site worth its salt needs an annual awards show, and since I actually played games that came out last year (for once), I would like to cordially welcome you to the first-ever Olive Awards!
Now, you may notice that there are some oddities. First off, some of the traditional categories like “Best Exclusive” or “Best Action/Adventure Game” are missing. The short reason? My show, my rules. The longer reason? Some of the categories simply aren’t what I consider to be particularly interesting. Plus, in a lot of cases, I only got a chance to play one or two games in a given genre this year; not much of a contest if there’s literally only one competitor, right?
Another difference is that many categories have multiple winners. This is simply because I suck at making decisions, and I’d rather acknowledge a selection of outstanding examples in a particular category than try to choose an ultimate winner. Besides, that sort of thing just tends to piss people off, so why bother?
Lastly, if the selection of games being discussed seems limited, it’s because I’m only talking about games that I played this year. Many of them I covered, though there are some exceptions. Regardless, let me just say that yes, Cuphead is bloody beautiful; yes, Super Mario Odyssey looks really freaking fun; and yes, Divinity Original Sin 2 seems like the kind of game that I could lose myself in for days. Happy? Let’s hope so, because the show starts now!
Games can be great at teaching. Titles like Influent attempt to game-ify the process of learning a new language, while games like Papers, Please opt for a more “immersive” approach, teaching the player not about real-world events specifically, but about the circumstances that no doubt surrounded the events it parallels. What I find particularly interesting, though, is the games that don’t so much “teach” as they “encourage to learn”. I’d argue that games like the Civilization series are a perfect example of this; while they don’t specifically mirror history (unless Gandhi was secretly a psychotic warmonger), I know of several friends who have started researching historical civilizations and figures simply because they got a taste of the available knowledge in a game of Civ. It’s in this category of games that Terroir finds itself, both to its benefit and detriment.