“This feels a lot like Super Mario Galaxy,” was one of my first thoughts upon starting Gears for Breakfast’s Kickstarter success story A Hat in Time. The resemblance only grew stronger as the game progressed, with everything from the art style and game mechanics to the music cues and animations harkening back to Mario’s outer space excursions. Not content to be a simple retread of familiar territory, though, A Hat in Time manages to bring in new ideas while doing an admirable job of measuring up to its acclaimed influences.
Video games have become increasingly dour over the last few years.
With a push towards more realistic environments, faces that are slowly crawling out of the uncanny valley, and the ever-popular greys and browns of most shooters, it’s easy to forget that video games were once primarily cartoony and colourful.
Thankfully, amidst the (admittedly gorgeous) vistas on display in games like Anthem and Forza Motorsport 7, several games slipped into E3 2017 that demonstrated the power of modern technology when it comes to creating imaginative, vibrant worlds. However, environment design can only get me so interested in a game; it’s what populates these locales that tends to truly make them shine. These are the games that had me clutching the sides of my face, ranting in all-caps to my friends, and trying not to squeal loud enough for my neighbours to hear, because OH MY GOSH DID YOU SEE THAT IT’S SO ADORABLE AND I NEED IT NOW!!!!!
As a storytelling medium, video games are something of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, their interactive nature has the ability to create far more visceral and engaging experiences for players. However, this also brings with it some inherent drawbacks. Budgets need to be allocated not just to production design, but also to programming, QA, and more. Bugs and glitches may spontaneously occur, sucking up massive amounts of time and energy. I bring up this comparison, because Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons stands as a prime example of both. It is hampered in many areas by the restrictions of the medium, with bugs, technical problems, and gameplay issues taking me out of the experience on a number of occasions. Despite this, it manages to feel like a near-perfect pairing of story and gameplay, where each is able to complement and enhance the other.
Fire Emblem is a series that has seen many instalments over the years, yet I feel that it’s still one that flies under the radar for most people. Certainly up until the point where I played Fire Emblem: Heroes, I always knew it as, “That fantasy turn-based tactics game that most of the sword-wielders in Smash Bros. came from”. It intrigued me, but never enough to warrant going out and buying a game. This probably wasn’t helped by the fact that many of the titles in the series have become highly sought-after commodities in recent years. Regardless, its release as a free-to-play mobile game signalled an easy (and cheap) way for me to give the series a shot.
Alice: Madness Returns is a game that attempts to convey the realities of a descent into madness to the player, and in that regard, it is an unequivocal success. Unfortunately, that’s because it is one of the most maddening games that I’ve played recently. It’s a game that feels like it had so much effort poured into certain aspects, while others were left to waste away in irrelevance. And unfortunately, most of the latter were the elements that would make it a compelling and enjoyable game.