The Guardians are back once again with a new chapter of their adventures. After their painfully average first outing, things were starting to look up in episode two. The story began to branch out, the choices were more thought-provoking, and the characters, well, had more character. Sadly, this uphill trend doesn’t seem to have carried over into episode three, which ends up suffering from several of the same issues that plagued the first episode.
Season two of Minecraft: Story Mode got off to a surprisingly strong start, with some fun new characters, welcome gameplay tweaks, and an intriguing new story. It did an excellent job at feeling like an interactive cartoon, with an overall sense of light-heartedness, punctuated by just enough seriousness to keep things interesting. With the pace set, though, can episode two keep up the momentum?
Another day, another new Telltale series. It seems that every franchise is getting adapted to the tried-and-true “interactive movie” format, and with the first season of Minecraft: Story Mode, the formula was starting to show its age. The series wasn’t without its high points, but these came with tonal inconsistencies, technical problems, and some downright cringe-worthy moments. The prospect of a second season didn’t so much appear as a chance at redemption as another cheap cash grab on top of the first season’s questionable Adventure Pass. However, completely out of left field, Telltale actually seems to have made some changes with this one! The question is, are they enough?
Of all the franchises that Telltale has tackled, Minecraft seems to be the one that was met with the most scepticism. There’s no real plot in the original game; any sense of story comes from the player’s own creativity. The world is randomly-generated, with a distinct lack of memorable landmarks and locales. How can a game that amounts to a digital toy be turned into a linear, narratively-focused adventure? Well, Telltale seems determined to find out, even if it must build a new world from scratch to do it.
The titular Guardians aren’t the only thing under pressure in the second episode of the ongoing point-and-click adventure series. Following a painfully average first outing, Under Pressure is tasked not only with continuing the established story, but also with giving players a reason to care. Featuring new characters and locales alongside some far more dramatic emotional beats, is there enough here to help the series claw its way out from mediocrity?
Telltale Games cut their point-and-click teeth on comedy, with Sam & Max and Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People becoming early breakout hits. As time went on, though, they headed in a more drama-focused direction, with the most publicized catalyst being the first season of The Walking Dead. Its focus on life-changing decisions made under tight time constraints created an emotional rollercoaster of an experience, with a plethora of scenarios whose outcomes were a far cry from black and white.
With this pedigree behind it, Guardians of the Galaxy: Tangled Up in Blue feels like a huge step back. That’s not to say that it’s a wholly worthless experience, but it feels like a game that largely ignores the developments made by its predecessors.
Five years is a long time in the world of gaming.
Five years ago, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 only existed as prototypes. Games like Dishonored, The Walking Dead, and Hotline Miami were considered new IPs. Half Life 3… well, people were a bit more optimistic about its existence.
Amidst all of this, the first two episodes of The Dream Machine slipped onto PC. At the time, it probably seemed impossible that it would take until 2017 for the story to reach its conclusion, yet here we are. Somehow, it managed to avoid the encroaching grasp of development hell and emerged as a beautiful head-trip of a game.
Absurdist humour is something that can be very difficult to pull off. If you push things too far, you risk alienating your audience, with the potential exception of the “lol, so random” crowd. If you don’t go far enough, most, if not all of the jokes will just fall flat, since (as the name implies), their humour comes from how utterly absurd they are. Add into the mix the complexity inherent in interactive media, and you have the delicate balancing act that is Jazzpunk.
After a long, tiring day, sometimes it’s nice to sit down with something simple; something that doesn’t involve lots of complicated mechanics.
Luckily, a number of these games have emerged over the last few years, many of them cropping up in the mobile space.
Looking at the vast catalog of such games, it is clear that one of the more common types is that of the endless runner, and it’s in this genre that Pony Island finds itself.
‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house,
Not a sound could be heard, ‘cept the click of a mouse.
I tapped softly at keys, poking them one by one,
In hopes that my Christmas post soon would be done.
Short games present an interesting conundrum. On one hand, they tell a brief, concise story that can generally be experienced in one or two sittings without overstaying its welcome. On the other, they provide significantly less time for the player to actually get invested in the game, whether it’s the story, characters, or gameplay. In some games, this can work well; games like Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist immediately come to mind. However, others can feel like they’re over before they’ve even really begun; sorry, I don’t have some perfectly relevant example for this off the top of my head. Interestingly, though, Message Quest manages to fall somewhere in between, feeling like it’s both over too quickly and not soon enough.
The end of the world happens every day.
Well, I guess that’s a slightly misleading statement. A better way of putting it would be that the end of a world happens every day. It may not involve you or someone you know, but hardship is a constant presence in our lives. Day in and day out, we struggle to build up and maintain some semblance of a satisfactory existence, yet it’s seemingly inevitable that it will all come crashing down. It happens in different ways at different times for different people, but there always seems to come a point where every facet of our existence, carefully placed and polished to a mirror sheen, becomes utterly meaningless in the face of some seemingly insurmountable challenge. The world that we’ve so carefully built up around ourselves shatters into thousands of pieces, and we’re left to wade through some of the hardest times in our life as everything seems to fall apart.
Such is the premise of The End of the World, a short, linear, narrative-driven experience for mobile devices. As the game’s store description explains, it follows the life of a man whose world ended the day that he lost his love. In the game, this “world ending” takes the form of the world literally falling apart and decaying around the protagonist as time goes on. It’s the player’s task to take the man through the terrible hardships he faces and hopefully find a way to move on.