“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.
“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.
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!
While it’s cliché to say that a game is “challenging to review”, I think that it’s fair to apply such a statement to SeaBed, due to one simple fact: it isn’t a game. It’s a visual novel (VN) in the truest sense of the word; there’s text that can be advanced with a click or set to auto-read, and pictures complement said text. Some VNs attempt to shake up the formula by adding dialogue choices or additional gameplay elements, giving the player a break from the ever-advancing walls of text; this isn’t the case with SeaBed.
The final episodes of Telltale games are always interesting, because they’re simultaneously a culmination of everything that’s led to that point, and go against the whole premise of the game. How can choices really matter when it’s all going to be over in an hour or two? Sure, it’s possible to make some decisions in the interim, but they tend to feel more cosmetic than anything. As a result, the big question for episode five of Minecraft: Story Mode Season Two is simple: was it worth it?
To call Telltale’s Guardians of the Galaxy series a rollercoaster ride is an understatement. Unfortunately, rather than playing with emotions and tugging at heartstrings like many of their other titles, Guardians has regularly flipped between being pretty good and painfully average. Of course, that places even more pressure on the final episode to not fall into the traps of mediocrity that have plagued the series. The question is: is that even possible at this point?
The dreaded Sunshine Institute was no match for the Order of the Stone in the last episode, and they managed to escape with a new cohort in tow. As it happens, Xara – the new addition – is one of three legendary admins; the other two are Fred, who’s gone missing, and Romeo, who’s been the one terrorizing the group all along. Xara is willing to lead the group to a portal to the surface, but (as they are wont to do) things quickly become more complicated. When faced with giant Endermen, magma golems, and – horror of horrors – trivia contests, will Jesse and her friends make it out, or will they be trapped Below the Bedrock?