It is with great sadness that we mourn the passing of another two weeks. So let’s drink to the last fortnight and have another for the next. Here’s what’s On Tap!
While the gameplay itself offers much to enjoy,
the real treat is in the aesthetics.
Child of Light is a fairy tale rendered
in watercolor, and darkly poetic.
2007 seems so long ago. That was the year THQ and GSC Game World finally released the absurdly ambitious open-world shooter S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl. It surprised us by being phenomenal. Broken, incoherent, and phenomenal. Released after six years of troubled development, it was a heavily redacted copy of the original vision – more than 50% of the game was cut – but even in its mangled state it was a landmark in the “future of shooters is RPGs” concept. To this day nothing has quite replicated the feel of your first time. And throughout it all rumors persisted, about the STALKER that they’d intended.
Welcome to the Zone that was. Welcome back, to a place you’ve never quite been.
Where did the last two weeks go? What even happened? I totally wasn’t paying attention.
Well, I guess the Star Wars cast got announced. That was pretty big. But we here at Tap don’t have time for motion pictures based on older motion pictures. We only like games here. Games only!
Ground Zeroes sold me on The Phantom Pain.
For a small segment of the internet population, April 20, 2014, was the end of the world.
I played Avengers Alliance on Facebook back when it was new in 2012, but only for a little while. I returned to it in early March, curious to see if it was even still around, and found the game to be much expanded, with many new characters and features that improved upon it. Clearly, it had continued to be healthy in my nearly two years of absence. I played on Playdom.com this time, which was separate from Facebook, and allowed you to easily friend other players in the local chat rather than spam everyone you know on the internet to try to get them to commit to a game so they can give you free stuff.
I liked it. But you know what they say about all good things.
Last week saw the release of Moebius: Empire Rising, an adventure game along the vein of Gabriel Knight, with some of the same pedigree. Specifically, the game is written by Jane Jensen and developed through her Pinkerton Studios label, published by Phoenix Online Studios. Phoenix Online previously worked on the Cognition series that I found so compelling last year, so I’ve been following their other work and I previewed a lot of their games at GDC this year. I was looking forward to Moebius when it was announced, and let me just say: this is an interesting one. But not at first glance. You have to dig deeper.
Holidays are notorious for being bad times to be on the road, what with the higher volume of people traveling. Of course, based on what we’ve been up to this last week, apparently, it’s probably pretty unsafe to be on the road with anyone who writes for Tap, ever. There should be a registry or something.
I read comics. I also tend to draw certain comparisons between the comics industry and the video game industry, whether it’s their history of being accused of corrupting their consumers through violent content, or the general stigma of being “kids’ stuff” despite all evidence to the contrary.
And like video game players, comic readers – certainly those that consider themselves fans – tend to be very passionate about the medium and the characters and creators they follow. It’s easy still to discount comics as all capes and costumes, if you’re on the outside, because that’s still where the money (relatively speaking) is, and that’s what gets made into movies. But as a medium, comics host many nuanced and personal stories across all genres, things that speak to readers in ways that stuff with a higher budget – television or movies, say – often cannot afford in their quest to appeal to the broadest audience possible.
But hey, there’s nothing wrong with superheroes, either; Marvel, in their new Ms. Marvel ongoing, has recently premiered a title character who is an American Muslim teenager, the daughter of Pakistani immigrants. How many places in American culture, even now, can you find that very real part of the American population represented, much less in a positive, leading role?
Regrettably, though, I’m not compelled to write this because of my favorite media moving forward. I’m compelled to write this because of my favorite media being held back.
I arrived at PAX East 2014 on Friday morning. I didn’t make any specific press appointments this year and my schedule for panels was pretty sparse. I walked into the convention center with an open mind, wondering what would grab my attention. At first I felt overwhelmed. The expo hall at PAX East was as loud and boisterous as ever, with the big players occupying noisy booths and holding tournaments and giveaways. The lines to try …
I really like Escape Goat 2 and I think you might too. When it’s not pissing me off, anyway, which it did do frequently. Still, it’s a snack-like game and even when it’s frustrating, it’s so friendly and colorful that it’s hard to hold a grudge.
Before I talk about Lifeless Planet, I’d like to share a funny story. I was talking with a coworker the other day and for some reason the conversation turned to space, and the distances involved when discussing it. Now, before I go on, you need to understand that I work with some people who are… rather… narrow… in their thought processes. Which is why, at this point, my colleague said:
“Well, they don’t know for sure that space is that big. I mean, they can’t say the distance to the next star without actually measuring it.”
I stared at him.
People think it’s an obsession. A compulsion. As if there were an irresistible impulse to act. It’s never been like that. I chose this life. I know what I’m doing. And on any given day, I could stop doing it. Today, however, isn’t that day. And tomorrow won’t be either.
Batman: Identity Crisis
by Brad Meltzer, 2004
That quote, more than anything, sums up the character that will form the centrepiece of this article; one who has transcended printed page, cinema and television screen, and now onto gaming consoles and PCs.
Can you believe that just one week ago, we couldn’t catch Pokemon on Google Maps? And we didn’t know how badly we need a Blizzard tournament fighter? It was a world without Captain America: The Winter Soldier. A world where former Uncharted creative director Amy Hennig wasn’t yet attached to the next big Star Wars game. A world in which five-year-olds were widely believed (unjustly) to be unable to crack the security on an Xbox One. It was truly a time of darkness and ignorance.
Good thing we had these games to keep us warm at night.