…a distillation of everything Naughty Dog has come to do so very right.
The Castle Doctrine is probably one of the most cynical and brutal games I’ve ever played. I bought it for a few reasons: the premise sounded fascinating, it’s by Jason Rohrer who was responsible for Passage, Sleep Is Death, Inside a Star-filled Sky and Gravitation (amongst others), and it was 50% off and due to go full price a few days later to coincide with the game’s release. According to Rohrer the game will never go on sale again so it was as good a time as any to check it out.
It’s a rough game to start though, and if you don’t know what the game is about then stick with me here, you’ll be perfect to illustrate this to.
There is a lonely house to the south of Hyrule Castle, perplexingly positioned atop a small hill for no apparent reason other than its fairly central location in the realm. The house has been there for at least two hundred years. It is not obviously part of Kakariko Village, to the west, nor is it, in any special way, associated with Hyrule Castle itself – although its occupants tend to end up there in times of need.
I managed to dip into a version of Proteus a few years ago, at least I think it was a few years ago, I can’t quite remember– time seems to go so fast these days. It was an early build anyway, and I didn’t play it for long because I’m not a fan of playing betas or alphas when there are so many finished games out there already, all vying for my time and attention. My brief jolly through its crisp, bright sprite-encrusted landscapes however, was enough to put it firmly on my map. Even then it had a hypnotically calming air about it, and following Joel Goodwin’s adorable video of him and his little boy playing it together I only wanted to play it more.
If you liked Braid, you’ll probably enjoy The Bridge. It is not by the same creative team, but in terms of mechanics, aesthetics, and structure, it may as well be called Braid 2: the Braidening, Braid Strikes Back.
I’m hurtling down a country highway in an old, beat up station wagon; a pack of ravenous undead cling to the outside and try to claw their way in, all while the vehicle is engulfed in flames. They break in and quickly rip out this poor survivor; the car rolls into a tree, a blazing inferno. Four, five, six, maybe more of the “reanimated” pounce on the driver – this is not Ed Jones’ day. Suddenly, a bright and glorious flash of orange incinerates the attackers granting them their second death. Ed stands up – he still has two legs to do so – and surveys the wreckage: what was seconds ago his coffin on wheels, now his saviour. He’s nowhere near unscathed, but he’s still breathing and that counts. Time to head home.
This is just one of an infinite possibility of harrowing scenarios in Trumball Valley.
State of Decay might just be the Zombocalypse game you didn’t know you were waiting for.
Maybe this is a curse of third Batman things: Arkham Origins is to the Arkham series what The Dark Knight Rises is to Christopher Nolan’s trilogy: the biggest, but probably the weakest, of a series of very good things. Arkham Origins is objectively a pretty good game, but that mostly comes from what it preserves from its predecessors, because it makes very few attempts at expanding that formula.
The Stanley Parable is a game about branching narrative structures in games. Well, except I talked to Davey Wreden for a bit at Indiecade last year, and he said it’s not really about that. But the game is pretty sarcastic, unless it’s very sincerely telling you something about how it feels about branching choices in games, so maybe I misinterpreted that conversation, or maybe Wreden was just pulling my leg.
The Stanley Parable is a game about pulling my leg.
After playing a bit of Heavy Rain, I would often get on my phone and call a friend who was playing it at the same time. After verifying how far in we were (speaking in vague terms, so as not to spoil anything), we ravenously compared notes on the latest choices we’d made, why, and what happened as a result. (“How did you cut off your finger?”) I was nearly as excited to find out what my friends had done differently as I was to progress further in the game. It’s an urge I get most any time I’ve gotten through a game that confronts me with a meaningful decision.
Beyond: Two Souls never once provoked this feeling in me.
Have you ever had a dream, Neo, you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How could you distinguish between the dream world and the real world?
Most children have a monster or two – under the bed, in the closet. One of mine lurked in the huge attic fan that cooled our home during the Time Before Air Conditioning. I never walked underneath when the slats were open. The creature was up there, perched above the rumbling mechanism. Go under and it might drop down and bury its claws in you. It could pass right through the spinning blades. I knew this. But I never saw it. Because there are no fan-monsters.
As I’ve mentioned a few times my PS3 is a relatively recent acquisition, and so I missed on some otherwise must-have exclusives during their launch windows. In honor of the release of Beyond: Two Souls this week, I decided to skip it for now and instead fire up its spiritual predecessor, Heavy Rain.
I thought I might not have much to say about Heavy Rain, but it had me at “Press Start,” and not actually in a good way.
Closure isn’t a half bad time if you want to experience a uniquely difficult yet easily playable puzzle platformer. But if you have Dark Souls, don’t bother reading further; just go play that. ‘How are they related’ you ask? Hah, well for that you will have to read on to find out!*
I was so excited when the message about the final chapter of Cognition: an Erica Reed Thriller, dropped into my inbox, that I let out a little squeal of joy. In public. People looked at me.
That should be your warning that I’ve become remarkably invested in this adventure game series.
I’m not very good at real-time strategy games. I attribute this to my inability to multitask well, but that’s not to say I don’t enjoy playing them. The biggest problem I have with them is that most revolve around micromanagement, and since AI War, with its robust automation and smart unit management, I’ve become more of a macromanagement kind of guy. Why? Because it means I can focus on the strategy part. You know, the important part. Not the frantic juggling and tedious busy work part. Homeworld and Company of Heroes, allegedly two of the finest real-time strategy games evar, turned me off because I had to nanny certain units. I’m sorry but, engineers, you need to fix those tanks right in front of you. And repair frigates, those nearby damaged ships need looking at. Do your fucking jobs. The more granular my level of involvement the more distracted I am from the strategy, and for me, that’s a problem.