There’s an old joke that all critics really want to be creators – game critics want to be designers, film critics want to be screen writers, music critics want to be rock stars, etc. Occasionally a critic does successfully make that leap. Even late film critic Roger Ebert wrote an odd X-rated pseudo-sequel to Valley of the Dolls in the 60s. Former PC Gamer editor Tom Francis may not be a Roger Ebert, but his one-man stealth-puzzle game Gunpoint is a triumph of simplistic but effective 2D puzzle design.
Gunpoint stars Richard Conway, a private investigator that lives in a pixelated world full of guards, security cameras, and breakable windows. During the opening sequence Conway witnesses the murder of a potential new client while trying out his new Bullfrog brand Hypertrousers. The pants allow you to charge up super jumps, breaking through windows and falling from any height. This allows you to concentrate on the puzzles in each level rather than any tedious platforming.
Conway is suspect #1 in the murder investigation, and the story follows a funny tale as he’s hired to first erase the data by one party, then try and recover it by another. The story unfolds through a simple text-based dialogue between a pair of pixelated faces. It’s a rudimentary as you can get. Thankfully the writing is particularly amazing. I laughed out loud throughout the unfolding noir drama that maintains its self-aware snarkiness. Continue reading “Gaming Backlog Final Thoughts – Gunpoint”
Walt Disney once said “Get a good idea and stay with it.” Many modern puzzle games have utilized a single brilliant concept to fuel the entire experience. Mushroom 11 is the latest of these innovative puzzlers with a unique and challenging growth mechanic.
In Mushroom 11 you play as a self-replicating amorphous green blob. A fungus, if you will. The blob constantly tries to stay the same size. It also needs to touch the ground or a suitable object in order to grow. Left click erases large chunks for rapid movement. Right click allows for smaller shape-building. Using these simple mechanics you guide your fungus through a gauntlet of platformer-style traps and hazards.
Yoshi has been destined for stardom since his first appearance in Super Mario World. He started his video game career as a power-up for Mario, but soon the lovable dinosaur starred in his own spinoff series of 2D platformers. These focused on his unique ability to eat foes and lay eggs, which can be used as weapons. Yoshi’s Woolly World combines this simple but effective mechanic with a beautifully realized art style and clever level design to create not only the best Yoshi game, but one of Nintendo’s best platformers in years.
Release Date: April 17, 2014 (Episode 1 December 4, 2013)
I want to take a moment to celebrate my 50th completed game since I began Rogue’s Adventures in the Fall of 2012. Motivated by an ever-expanding backlog thanks to constant and amazing Steam sales, I was drowning in games, and never knew which ones to play. Rogue’s Adventures helps me create a schedule and stick to it, and I’ve played (and completed) dozens of games in the last few years.
Broken Sword 5 is a neat game to have for number 50. The firstthreegames were a major reason I began Rogue’s Adventures. I had a particularly large backlog of point and click adventure games at the time. Most of what would become Season 1 of Rogue’s Adventures were adventure games, including the first three Broken Sword titles (which I undoubtedly bought in a discounted bundle). I usually prefer my adventure games with fantasy or sci-fi flavoring but the modern thrillers with lovable characters and varied puzzles resonated well with me.
Blizzard Entertainment doesn’t release very many games. They still have only a handful of franchises to their name, and half of them have “craft” in the title. Blizzard has abstained from releasing yearly entries in its popular franchises like many big gaming companies do, instead releasing just one or two games a year total, then giving players years’ worth of post-game updates, improvements, support, and the occasional paid expansion.
Blizzard’s successful approach to mainstream gaming and commitment to their games has never been more apparent than with Diablo 3. Originally released in 2012, an agonizingly long 12 years after Diablo 2, the latest entry made the surprising changes of breaking and reconstructing many of the series’ (and the whole genre’s) beloved systems. And fans were not happy.
Skill points were completely scratched, the game instead rewarding everyone with the same skills and skill-runes every level. The art style was bemoaned as being far too bright and cartoony compared to the series’ former Gothic, sinister tones. An auction house, at which you could buy other players’ in-game items and sell your own, destroyed the exhilaration of finding your own loot, and a real money store—where you simply paid the developer for stuff—threatened the game’s basic integrity.
Then there was the infamously derided always-online component, which forced even those that just wanted to play by themselves to sign into Blizzard’s servers, at the constant mercy of their internet connection. On launch day players who simply couldn’t play the game they had just purchased spewed enough bile to fill a Grotesque.
Many purists and diehards of the genre quickly dismissed Diablo 3 in 2012. But then a funny thing happened. You see, underneath all these derided changes beat the demonic soulstone of a solid action-role-playing game. The desire to swiftly kill things to get more powerful and get fancy loot so that you can then kill more things is still a winning formula. Its near universal popularity has been co-opted by shooters and action games like Borderlands and Destiny, and is particularly adept at bringing friends together in a more relaxed, cooperative environment.
Super Mario Maker has been available for only about a month. But already the community response has been incredible. The game gives players most of the tools from the biggest Mario games of the last 30 years. It lets them run wild with crazy concepts and inventive ideas.
New sub-genres of the traditional Mario platformer have already been established. There’s everything from “Don’t Move” automatic levels to faithful remakes of other classic Nintendo titles. I’ve scoured the top charts to find some of the best levels.
I spotted the peaceful parasaurolophus drinking by the river. I sent a rock flying from my crude slingshot, and my tamed pair of dilophosaurus shot out from beside me, chasing the fleeing herbivore across the water.
Dangerous things lurk in the water, like megapiranhas. I was nearly killed just making the brief swim. I lacked a Chris Pratt-style motorcycle and quickly lost sight of both my quarry and my dinosaurs.
On the far side of the river, I watched in stunned silence as a Spinosaurus attacked a herd of brontosaurus. I was snapped back to reality as a pair of giant killer wasps suddenly bore down on me. I fled right into a pack of wild dilophosaurus. My screen turned black as their spit hit my face, and I died to a frenzy of claws and teeth.
Welcome to the world of ARK: Survival Evolved, a prehistoric island where humans are the lowest on the food chain.
ARK: Survival Evolved contains the usual checklist for the popular survival genre that can trace its roots back to Minecraft: constant food and water needs, building and crafting increasingly complex buildings and items, and a big world to explore.
ARK also happens to be one of the best-selling games of the year, though it’s still in Early Access. Originally launched on Steam in June, ARK had the distinct advantage of featuring a gorgeous premise with an island full of dinosaurs and other prehistoric critters right when Jurassic World was taking over the cinema. Since then ARK has gone on to sell over a million copies, becoming a huge hit on Twitch.tv and YouTube.