Rogue-lite mechanics have been one of the most popular features in indie games for years now, second only to pixel graphics, it seems. I get the appeal: given the comparatively small budget that many independent games have compared to their AAA counterparts, being able to artificially extend an experience with a near-endless supply of randomly-generated content is an appealing proposition. However, its prevalence has started to wear on me over the years, to the point where “rogue-lite” or “rogue-like” as buzzwords often tarnish my interest in a game. Thankfully, while this did somewhat colour my experience with Everspace, there were enough good ideas under the surface that it was worth a more thorough look.
Sine Mora EX is a veritable melting pot of ideas. It’s a bullet-hell shmup that replaces lives and health bars with a timer. It weaves a grim narrative of war, rebellion, and genocide, all seen through the eyes of anthropomorphic animals. To top it all off, its creators include the Hungarian studio Digital Reality, Grasshopper Manufacture (known to many as Goichi “Suda51” Suda’s development house), and Akira Yamaoka (known for his Silent Hill soundtracks). Somehow, though, all these disparate elements combine to create a shooter that is challenging, beautiful, and consistently entertaining.
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.
Slow, stamina-based combat? Check. Enemies that respawn whenever you rest to heal? Check. Experience points that get dropped every time you die? Check. No, this isn’t some ill-promoted sequel to the Dark Souls series; it’s an isometric action game by the name of Immortal Planet.
To say that Immortal Planet draws heavy inspiration from FromSoftware’s famous series is an understatement. For the first half hour or so of the game, every time I asked, “I wonder if it does this thing that Dark Souls does?” the answer was a resounding, “Of course!” Thus, Immortal Planet takes place in a semi-open world backed by a largely vague narrative. As a mysterious Awakewalker, you are tasked with restoring the Cycles of the planet, the lack of which has caused it to turn to a frozen wasteland. In your way stand countless enemies with varying attack patterns, all of which need to be analysed and circumvented to succeed.
How do I describe Redout?
Then again, perhaps a more accurate question is, “How do I describe Redout without drowning this review in more buzzwords than the average E3 press conference?” The thing is: doing so would require me to pour hours and hours of time and energy into a single paragraph instead of just playing more Redout. Not exactly ideal. With that in mind, allow me to indulge.
Redout is one of the most delightfully high-octane, edge-of-my-seat racing games in recent memory. It’s a thrilling adrenaline rush of an experience that caused more emotional outbursts from me than a House of Cards season finale. It’s a finely-tuned joyride that’s been polished and balanced until it shines in a cornucopia of flashy colours.
What I’m saying is that Redout is really freaking good.
Randomness in games is an excellent method of promoting custom story generation. The fact that nearly everyone will have an experience that is at least marginally unique means that there’s always something new and interesting to talk about that many players may have never seen or heard of. That’s the goal with The Long Journey Home, a rogue-lite space game that channels FTL: Faster Than Light and No Man’s Sky into a challenging, galaxy-trotting, survival experience.
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.
Well, it’s officially 2017 around the world. The start of a new year. Which means that everyone’s looking back on the last year and going, “Well that was a bit toss, wasn’t it?” That is, except for the people who are taking the opportunity to look back at their fond memories from the year past, namely when it comes to video games. There were countless fantastic games that got released last year, so many of which I desperately wanted to try out. Unfortunately, as a university student, there are two things that I severely lack in: money and time. As a result, it is incredibly common that I have to watch as new releases are hyped, released, and enjoyed by the masses, while waiting patiently for the day that they inevitably go on sale and I actually have the time to sit down with them. Some of these games have been sitting in my library for months, awaiting their eventual installation. Others are on my wishlist, hoping to one day be added to my ever-growing backlog. Whatever the case, these are (in no particular order) the games that I wish I had gotten to in 2016. You can also consider this to be a “To play in 2017” list, if that’s your thing. Either way, you’ve probably all already played all of these and think I’m a pleb for not looking at them yet.
‘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.
Minimalism is a popular concept in video games. One of the most commonly-used forms is in minimalistic art styles; many indie games in particular often opt for a clean, simple look to make their user interfaces and gameplay screens uncluttered and easy to understand. However, minimalism can also be applied to other aspects of a game, such as the narrative or even the gameplay mechanics. In some cases, this can lead to phenomenal results. Take the various games that Telltale has made over the last few years; the player’s opportunities for interaction are typically limited to following button prompts, yet the rich narrative carries the experience. Instead of picking and choosing, though, Antenna opts for minimalism in basically every aspect. That’s not to say that it feels cheap or cobbled together; this is not some shovelware that was just thrown up on Steam Greenlight one day and left to die. However, there’s also very little to grasp onto when it comes to doing a proper analysis of it.
“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”
-Philip K. Dick
It is with this quote that SOMA begins its interesting, insightful, and terrifying descent, both metaphorical and literal. In its opening moments, the game establishes you as Simon Jarrett, a seemingly ordinary young man who is suffering from a severe head injury following a tragic car crash. Given months to live, Simon decides to undergo an experimental procedure under the observation of Dr. David Munshi. However, as the first stage of the procedure (a brain scan) begins, Simon is knocked out, and wakes up somewhere…else. He eventually determines that he is onboard a largely abandoned facility known as PATHOS-II, and it’s some 100 years in the future. After some exploring, Simon is able to contact one of the other sites on PATHOS-II, and reaches a woman named Catherine Chun. She informs him of the purpose of the facility, and the two set out to complete the mission Catherine began before everything went to hell.