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8:17 AM on 10.30.2013

The Humble Indie Bungle 4 - A Spooky Double Feature!

It's Halloween time. And you know what means. It means it's time for all manner of spookery! At least I assume that's what it means. I'm from Australia and Halloween is frowned upon over here, so I wouldn't really know...

But that shouldn't stop the fun! Nor should it stop the spookery! So I went on google and did a bit of research. It seems that Halloween is primarily about these things:

Spooky Movies!

Spooky Music!

Spooky Costumes!

And most important of all, Spooky Games!

So, in keeping with the spirit of Halloween, I've got a deliciously devilish double feature for you. Two games whose contents are sure to scare you witless. Two games that house horrors so horrifying I daren't even speak of them.

Yes, even a cursory exposure to these unspeakable terrors would send the soundest of minds into a spiral of madness.

You've been warned.

First up is Eldritch, a roguelike inspired by the seminal (and spooky!) works of H.P. Lovecraft. Eldritch sees your character combing through dungeons in search of ancient artifacts with which to seal away an encroaching demonic presence. An enviable task, to be sure. Along the way you must hunt for artifacts (the game's currency) as well as weapons and spells to aide you on your deadly descent.  

The game is tense, fun, and adapts to many varying play styles. Wanna be stealthy and dodge all potential foes? You can do that. Wanna go in guns blazing and mow down your hellish opponents? You can do that too.

One of the best things about Eldritch is it's chilling sound design. A creepy ambient hum and equally creepy incidental music is punctuated by the bloodcurdling shrieks of nearby enemies. I'm not ashamed to admit that on several occasions the music had me starting in shock.  

The big takeaway from Eldritch though, is the success of the Lovecraft-ian elements. Why are there not more games inspired by Lovecraft? There are hundreds of board games that adopt his atmosphere and tone, but only a handful of video games. It's a travesty!

Next up, is Catachresis.

If there's one thing that my lifelong obsession with horror movies has taught me, it's that the only thing scarier than a haunted house is a possibly haunted house. In other words, the scariest things are the things we can't see. The first half of Catachresis nails this idea.

Catachresis is the story of a paranormal investigator, Jeff, who is sent to deal with some bizarre happenings in a neglected warehouse. That's about all I can tell you without ruining the story but, needless to say, things quickly take a turn for the occult. They also quickly take a turn for the Lynch. That is David Lynch. There is no actual lynching in the game, as far as I know. Which, frankly, is a missed opportunity.

This is why I love Catachresis: One section sees you walking through a seemingly endless field. The grass slowly gets higher. The music gets increasingly intense. The game starts playing Eternal Darkness-esque tricks on you. Was that a word that popped up in the background? You could have sworn that was a pair of eyes in the bushes. The tension builds and builds and builds. Something is definitely about to jump out at you.

Nothing does.

This style of "slow burn" horror is orders of magnitude more scary than a big ugly demon spoiling the tension with a shitty jump scare.

But perhaps the most impressive thing about Catachresis is the way it creates exceedingly likable characters in a very short time. The dialogue - funny, charming and incredibly economical - sets up Jeff and his ghost busting buddys as interesting people you might actually like to hang out with. You'll grow to admire them over the course of the game, making makes their perilous situation even more gripping.

Unfortunately, the experience begins to drag near the end as the opening's subtlety is ditched for the aforementioned Lynch-ian weirdness. The final scene, however, is a sight to behold and well worth sticking around for.

Also, the game is free. So you should definitely give it a shot.

So those are the two indie games I've been playing in preparation for Halloween. I'll also be replaying the Mad Monster Mansion level in Banjo Kazooie. Because dat music.

But what about you? What are some spooky games you'll be playing to get into the spirit of All Hallows Eve? Will you opt for the jumpy terror of something like Eldritch, or the psychological terror of something like Catachresis?

Whatever you choose, I hope you have a Happy Halloween!   read

6:20 AM on 10.26.2013

Because VIDEO GAMES: 5 things CousinDupree is excited about (Stolen!)

First things first. If you haven't read ShadeOfLight's blog, go now. Seriously. Go. I'll wait.

Right. Now that you've read his blog you can come back here and read my cheap knock-off.

Before we start though, I want to quickly explain what I loved about his blog. The video game industry is plagued with cynicism and controversy, so it's very easy to become jaded. Being jaded may be easy, but isn't particularly productive or fun. So Shade (is that what I call you? I'm relatively new here....) wrote a blog about being happy and excited. And not only that, he wrote a blog about all the things that he's happy and excited about. It was awesome and utterly infectious.

In one delicious swoop he managed to ignite a passion in me. A burning passion. A red raw passion. A passion that could only be satiated by sharing the things I'm happy and excited about.

So let's get excited, motherfuckers.

5. I've just started playing Earthbound for the first time, and it's amazing!

*Minor spoilers......I guess*

I love it when Nintendo gets weird. Because when Nintendo gets weird, they get weeeeiiirrrddd. So it's kinda silly that it's taken me this long to get around to playing Earthbound; a game that epitomises weird Nintendo. But I'm playing it now. And you know what? It frigging rocks!

I didn't really know what to expect going in, but my fears were quickly erased when the following two things happened:

1. One of the first enemies you fight is a skeevy little crow that wears sunglasses and steals your bread rolls. THIS is the music that plays when you fight him.

2. The first boss is a 1950's greaser. He's fairly easy to beat, but he has a secret weapon. It's a giant wooden mech version of himself.

At this point I was at a total loss for words. It's utterly bizarre and I love it!

The whole game feels like a really weird Pokémon, but faster and more streamlined. I'm really excited to keep playing, because I know it's only going to get more crazy.

4. The Witness!

This trailer fills me with a child like glee that I can't explain. I was already excited for this game, but I recently played through Braid for the first time and now my hype levels are through the roof. Just look at it!

The graphics are gorgeous, the premise is intriguing and the music is killer.

I want this inside me.

3. Ass Creed 4: PIRATES!

It's just another Ass Creed game, right? It's just like all the other ones. Shitty combat and shitty stealth. Another entry in a long line of yearly cash ins.

Well, you know what? I don't care! It's about Pirates! Pirates! Pirates are objectively rad and therefore this game will be objectively rad!

I'm genuinely more excited for this game than basically any other AAA game launching this year. I really loved the naval combat in Ass Creed 3, but wanted more of it, so I think the pirate setting is perfect.

Pirates are honestly the best thing ever.

2. #teamfroakie

Froakie is the best thing to happen to Pokémon since Miltank.

1. Super Mario 3d World gives me life!

Do you know what's absolutely amazing? We can press buttons and then things will move on a screen. That's what reading Shade's blog reminded me. The mere existence of video games blows my mind. And no other upcoming game reminds me of that fact more than Super Mario 3D World.

Let's step back a few months. I was one of the three people who was actually excited about this game when it was first revealed at E3. 3D Mario games are, after all, my spirit animal, so getting the chance to play them with friends was infinitely exciting.

Then they showed that trailer. And my mind was absolutely blown. It was all my Christmas' and birthdays at once. It was almost too much to handle. Four hundred bazillion new powerups. Jazzy soundtrack. Crazy new worlds. I was drooling. I still am drooling.

So in conclusion: video games are awesome!

And Shade is absolutely right. We should be excited about them. And we should be passionate about them. And we should be hyping all over our best pair of pants.


Because VIDEO GAMES.   read

6:22 AM on 10.23.2013

The Humble Indie Bungle 3 - The Stanley Parable HD

CousinDupree stared blankly at his computer screen while pawing ineffectually at it's keyboard. He was racking his brain. How on earth was he going to talk about The Stanley Parable?

With it's multiple endings, hilarious premise and seemingly limitless hoard of secrets, it seemed antithetical to write a verbose and detailed analysis. And to be perfectly honest, he really wasn't capable of a verbose and detailed analysis anyway...

Perhaps he should take a break for a few minutes to think about it. Yes. He would take a break. He stood up and stared at the pungent squalor surrounding him. Hundreds of discarded Doritos packets were scattered around his computer. A pile of half empty Mountain Dew cans - an effigy to his Lord and Saviour - sat in the corner, their satanic contents slowly spewing onto the fusty carpet. He knelt down to pray.

Suddenly it hit him. He knew what he had to do. He would write about some other funny games he had played. He would write about why he thought games rarely succeeded at being funny. He would write about humour in general. Yes, it was perfect.

But first, he would stop writing his blog in the third person. Because, truth be told, it made him seem like a bit of a knob jockey.

The Stanley Parable is, without a doubt, the funniest game I have ever played. Bar none. There were numerous times that it sent me into painful hysterics. It's also one of the cleverest games I've ever played.

But, as I said above, if I were to tell you why it's so funny and clever I would be ruining the entire experience for you. So instead, let's talk about some other games I've played that are funny.

The obvious answer is Portal. Everyone has played it and (just about) everyone loved it. GLaDOS's razor sharp tongue and bone dry delivery often left me heaving with laughter. But as with the Stanley Parable, the humour mostly stems from a hilarious and well written narrator.

Another funny game (and a forgotten gem) is de Blob for the Wii. The cut scenes in de Blob are riotous; some of them rivalling the best work of Pixar, DreamWorks and Disney. (Also the fucking soundtrack is unbelievable!) But that's exactly what they are. Cut scenes. The actual game itself isn't particularly humorous.

My third and final example is the Paper Mario series. Those games are so crazy and bizarre, they make me wish Nintendo was willing to let itself get weird more often. But the humour in that series almost exclusively comes from the funny writing. The gameplay itself isn't all that funny.   

I guess what I'm getting at is that there are plenty of funny games out there, just very few that have funny gameplay. There are plenty of games that are funny to watch/listen to/read, but very few that are actually funny to play.  

This probably has a lot to do with timing. Comedy - for the most part - has a lot to do with precise timing. Video games - for the most part - aren't particularly good at precise timing. Imagine watching a stand up comedy show in which the comedian was only allowed to say the punch lines after the audience had completed a series of complicated button presses. Sure, the jokes would still be funny, but not as funny as they could have been if the comedian had full control.

What's more, not everyone plays a game in the same way. So trying to accommodate for every play style would be like trying to ram your fist through a keyhole.

Then again, there is always Octodad. But I guess that's just the exception that proves the rule. Except not at all. Because that's not what that phrase means. Never mind.

So my question to you is: What are some funny games? More specifically, what are some games that are actually funny to play, not just funny to read/listen/watch?

Also. You should definitely play The Stanley Parable. It's fucking hilarious.  


CousinDupree slammed his fist onto his computer desk.

"I've done it!" he said. "I've written my tenth Cblog!"

He had so many things to say. So many people to thank. He wanted to thank the awesome Cblog community for reading his drek. He wanted to thank those who had fapped and commented. He wanted to thank Mr Andy Dixon for fapping one of his blogs (it had made CousinDupree's week).

But instead CousinDupree just indulged in a quick and shameful victory wank.

He figured it was probably appropriate.   read

10:23 AM on 10.18.2013

Zelda is Hella Stylin!

What's this? My last two blogs had nothing to do with Nintendo? In the words of Sam the Eagle in Muppet Treasure Island: This looks UNSAFE!

But fear not troubled reader, I come bearing good news! Today I'm going to talk about that most contentious of Nintendo topics. Zelda! More specifically: 3D Zelda Art styles!

There are a few reasons for this. Firstly: My most popular blog was about Art Styles, so I figured I'd shamelessly write about them again in the vain hope of some undeserved attention (Hey. I'm not above fishing for compliments! Or Hylian Pike, for that matter) Secondly: I've been playing a whole bunch of Wind Waker HD recently and it got me to thinking.

One of the things I love about the Zelda series is it's ever changing art style. Just as Link bravely marches into Gannon's treacherous territory, Eiji Aonuma bravely marches the Zelda franchise into new and interesting artistic territory. Sometimes with a less than charitable response from fans.

But this is video games! So I can't just talk about the art styles; I have to rank them on an arbitrary and totally subjective list!

So, I present to you:
My Top Ten Favourite Zelda Art Styles!

Well. Actually. If I'm honest, I haven't technically played all the Zelda games. So I think I'll limit it to just the five 3D console Zelda games.

So, I present to you:
My Top Five Favourite 3D Console Zelda Art Styles!

Well. Uhm. Majora's Mask and Ocarina of Time basically have the same art style. So I'll just count them as one game in this list.

So, I present to you:
My Top Four Favourite 3D Console Zelda Art Styles(with OOT and MM counting as one entry)!


Now, let's all just cool our jets for a second. I don't want to walk into this list half-cocked! Or I might literally end up with half a cock. I'm not kidding. The Zelda fans will cut off half my cock if I do a bad list. We take this stuff very seriously!

Before we proceed, we'll get a few things straight. I'll be ranking the games on two major criteria:

1. General Beauty: This one is pretty obvious. How erect does my penis become when I look at the graphics? I'll be rating them on a scale from 1 to Ryan Gosling.

2. Utilisation: This one might take a little explaining. An awesome art style is great news, but if the game doesn't take full advantage of it's stylin' features then we have a problem. I'll explain this a little better when we talk about Wind Waker.

I'll also rate them on the following minor criteria:

1. Hilarity

2. Chronological position within David Lynch's Filmography

Alright. I think we're ready. Let's do this!

4. Ocarina of Time/Majora's Mask

Oh man. My fellow Zelda fans are already fuming. I can hear them. I guess I'd better say goodbye to one half of my cock. But which half should I send to the chopping block? The sturdy and dependable shaft or the approachable and magnanimous tip. A question for the ages.

Anyway. The art style in Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask is basically the most "Realistic" of all of the Zelda games. Which is probably why it's my least favourite.

There are some truly magical areas to be seen in the two N64 entries though. The eerie and bizarre Astral Observatory, the windswept Gerudo Valley and the eerie Ikana Canyon to name a few.

Also, please bear in mind that Majora's Mask is my favourite game of all time. So putting these two at the bottom of the list pains me as much as you.

General Beauty: Great Fairy

Utilisation: Majora's Masked by ingenuity

Hilarity: Pretty Good

Chronological position within David Lynch's Filmography: Student Film

3. Wind Waker

Having successfully pissed off every Zelda fan ever, CousinDupree continued to antagonise those that were kind enough to keep reading. He was, in effect, digging his own grave. Apparently Dampé was busy that day.

I love Wind Waker's art style. Honest I do. The only reason it isn't higher on the list is that utilisation thing we talked about earlier. When I was recently replaying Wind Waker HD, I was struck by how many of the environments looked incredibly similar. Some of them are flat out reused several times during the game. A good example is the interior of the ghost ship. It's just a slight variation on the interior of the submarines.

Also, some of the dungeons are a bit bland (I'm looking at you Earth Temple!)

All of that said, it's very difficult for me to avoid going weak at the knees whenever I behold the glory and majesty that is The Great Sea. Dat music.  

General Beauty: Midna's Human Form

Utilisation: Blowing in the Wind Waker 

Hilarity: SPLOOOSH!

Chronological position within David Lynch's Filmography: About an hour before The Elephant Man

2. Twilight Princess

Choosing between this and Skyward Sword was like trying to choose between my children. Actually, that's a terrible analogy. I don't have any children. Also I hate all children. They're the fucking worst.

Let's try again.

Choosing between this and Skyward Sword was like trying to choose between the art style's of Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword. Yeah, I think that'll fly.

Twilight Princess is very much a grower, not a shower. The first couple of areas/dungeons are pretty standard. Then you get to the Arbiter's Grounds. And things get really weird. Then you get to the Snowpeak Ruins. And things get even weirder. I love it.

If Nintendo ever decides to go back to a more realistic style, they should definitely look at Twilight Princess as the model example. It takes a realistic approach without jeopardising the weird and wonderful character of the more cartoony styles.  

General Beauty: Ryan Reynolds

Utilisation: No need to Twilight any harder

Hilarity: This game is a Spaghetti Western. For reals.

Chronological position within David Lynch's Filmography: Half way through Blue Velvet

1. Skyward Sword

There's a lot to hate about Skyward Sword. The excessive hand holding. The slightly disappointing overworld. The fact that every time you reload the game it explains all the treasure to you again. I know what a fucking Amber Relic is. I don't need to be told again. Jesus.

Anyway. The one thing that consistently dazzled me throughout the entire game was the art style. It combines the whimsy of Wind Waker with the absurdity of Twilight Princess to create something truly breathtaking.

But I think the thing that impressed me the most was the variety. There is an astounding level of diversity in the locations and dungeons in the game. From the religious symbolism in The Ancient Cistern to the time-bending Lanayru Desert, every new area in the game feels fresh and unique. And for a main quest that borders on 40 hours, that's pretty impressive.

But seriously. If you tell me what a Amber Relic is one more god damn time...

General Beauty: Ben Wishaw

Utilisation: Sure to Skyward off any detractors

Hilarity: Are those star bits? Oh, fuck you Nintendo!

Chronological position within David Lynch's Filmography: Original pilot for Twin Peaks


So where to now? What new and interesting direction should the Zelda art style take?

The art style in this fake trailer for a HD Majora's Mask remake is pretty fucking dope.

If it were up to me though, I know exactly which direction I'd take the next Zelda's art style. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you: Zelda Nouveau!

(I didn't draw that picture, by the way. This guy did.....I fucking wish I had that kind of talent)

7:30 AM on 10.16.2013

The Humble Indie Bungle 2 - The Yawhg

This blog is primarily about hugging. 

I've come to the conclusion that The Yawhg, in many ways, is like a good hug. I'll explain this a little later, but for now let's talk about the actual game.

The Yawhg is the story of a medieval city that, in six weeks, will be ravaged by a cataclysmic disaster (called The Yawhg). The exact nature of the disaster is never fully explained. (I've spoken about my love of this kind of mystery numerous times before, so I won't bore you with that nonsense again.)

You choose two (or more) of four available characters and spend the game making choices about how you will occupy your time in the six weeks preceding the disaster. Depending on where you choose to spend these precious hours of preparation, certain stats will be upgraded. A week of brewing potions in the alchemy lab will increase your magic and mind stats, whereas a week of brawling in the arena will increase your physique stats.

At the end of the six weeks, each character must choose a role in the rebuilding of the freshly ravaged town. The character's individual stats will determine how successful they are in these roles. Pick the right role for your characters and the town will be rebuilt successfully and begin to prosper again. Pick the wrong role for your characters'll see...

That's right. The Yawhg is one of those games that has one hundred billion different endings. I once heard them called divergent games; so that's what I'll call them for the rest of the blog.

The awesome thing about The Yawhg, as with many divergent games, is that it's able to tell many different stories at once. What's more, each player is able to craft a story that appeals and makes sense to them. Or, if they're so inclined, a story that doesn't appeal and doesn't make sense to them.

They can role-play. They can dictate where the story goes and can ultimately decide how the story ends. Then they can replay the game and experience something completely different. This higher level of agency means that they have a very unusual relationship with the game's creator.

Unlike a movie/book in which the audience watches/reads the creator convey an idea; a divergent game sees the player work together with the creator (sometimes more than once) to convey an idea.

It's a really complicated concept that - frankly - I'm doing a piss-poor job of explaining. I tried drawing a diagram to help myself make sense of it, but it ended up looking like an incredibly sexual Picasso painting.

So. Instead. I decided to use a hugging analogy. It made much more sense, so I rolled with it.

In a book or movie, it's a one way hug. The author/director is hugging me and I'm not hugging back. I still have to think about why the hug is awesome, but they are providing everything I need in order to appreciate the hug.

In a divergent video game, it's a mutual hug. The developer is hugging me, and I'm hugging back. They ultimately have control of the hug, but we have to work (and think) together to fully appreciate the beauty and splendour of the hug.

Let's get a few things straight. Both types of hug are fun. Both types of hug are awesome. And most importantly of all, both types of hug are valid.

But in a clever game, all the special qualities of a mutual hug are taken advantage of. And in an incredibly clever game like The Yawhg, it feels like the story/stories would only work as a mutual hug. 

No other game I've played has demonstrated the power and allure of a mutual hug as successfully as The Yawhg. It can be fully hugged in about 10 minutes, but I found the prospect of re-hugging it almost impossible to resist. I hugged it so many times that I experienced all of the possible hug-clusions. All these radically different hugs came together into one big hug that I found HUG-ely absorbing.

In conclusion: If you like hugging, you'll love The Yawhg.

I give it a rating of:

3Bear Hugs /3  

"Pretty good."

6:18 AM on 10.09.2013

The Humble Indie Bungle - Balloon Diaspora

Our brains work in very mysterious ways.

Sometimes a brilliant idea will hit us all of a sudden. Sometimes a moment of intense inner turbulence will be met - all at once - with a moment of intense inner revelation. Sometimes our brains will inexplicably provide us with all the answers.

Sometimes our brains will throw us a really shitty pun and make us figure out the rest for ourselves.

Wanna guess which one I got?

I really wish I could play more indie games!

I really wish I could write more cblogs!

These are the thoughts that have recently been making the rounds in the hollow cavity some refer to as my head. The solution to this conundrum is simple; it's just taken my intermittently functional brain a while to figure it out. Write a blog about indie games!

With this in mind, I am very happy to present:

The Humble Indie Bungle!

A (hopefully) weekly blog I which I report on an indie game I have played during that week. This will (hopefully) force me to play a minimum of one indie game every week whilst also (hopefully) forcing me to write a minimum of one blog every week.

It isn't meant as an educational blog. I'm certain that most of you will have already played most of the games I discuss. And I don't really have a plan for how or what I'm going to write. If I want to go off on a tangent, I'll let myself.

But enough about me. Let's get this shit-show started. The first game I want to look at is one that I've already played. I talked about it in my intro blog and I've wanted to write something about it for a long time. It is Balloon Diaspora by the talented gentlemen over at Cardboard Computer.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Cardboard Computer are undoubtedly my favourite indie developer. Balloon Diaspora was the first of their games that I played, but I'd been aware of them for some time before that. I saw the trailer for Kentucky Route Zero and proceeded to curl into a ball and cry myself to sleep over it's splendour. But due to unemployment and a lack of funds - which, quite frankly, was due to the difficulty of getting a job while being curled up in a ball and crying- I couldn't buy it at that time.

So, being the frugal (read: cheap) person that I am, I wandered over to their website in the hope of a free demo or - even better - a free game from earlier in their career. What I found was Balloon Diaspora. I started playing immediately and completed the game in one sitting.

And - due to the game's intense brilliance - I have not stopped shitting myself since that day.

Needless to say, I am still unemployed.

But what's the game about? Well, many things. It's the story of a stranded traveller, it's the story of a destroyed civilization and it's the story of a lost soul looking for adventure and a purpose. The Cardboard Computer website summarises the experience as follows:

Explore a foreign culture, make new friends and ride through the clouds in a hot air balloon.

But most importantly of all, I think, the game is about a cultural exchange and the friendship that is borne out of it.

Balloon Diaspora begins with your character seemingly stranded in a foreign land with nothing but a busted hot air balloon. A sympathetic local, Silas, offers to help you fix the balloon if you can find some suitable bits of cloth with which to patch it up. In order to do this, you must travel through the clouds in his personal hot air balloon and aide various people in exchange for patches of cloth.

The game consists entirely of dialogue trees and requires almost no skill to complete. There is some light problem solving, but it basically boils down to knowing which characters to speak to and in what order.

You might notice that I say "your character". This is very important. One of the best things about Balloon Diaspora (and Cardboard Computer games in general) is that they are all very much concerned with the player crafting their own distinct character. But rather than a standard character creation screen, or even the slightly contextualised character creation setup in the Elder Scrolls games, they opt for a very subtle and organic approach.

The NPC's ask you questions (just like the one in the picture above) and your answers "create your character". But it doesn't feel contrived at all. It doesn't feel like you're "creating a video game protagonist". It just feels like you're having a conversation with someone you haven't met before. You have to tell them a little about yourself.

What's more, the questions don't adhere to the typical character creation clichés. A good example of this - and a particular favourite of mine - is the conversation you have with an NPC regarding the popularity of Seagull Salmon Casserole in your home country.

And just in case you were wondering, the writing in Balloon Diaspora is absolutely genius. Whenever anyone argues (as they often do) that all videogames have the subtly of a sledgehammer to the dick, I direct them straight to Cardboard Computer games.

The NPC's are, for the most part, a disenfranchised people, hailing from the Balloon Archipelago. Something terrible has happened there and various characters hint at what it might have been, but we're never told outright. Instead we're left to piece together the few hints that we are given. This ambiguity lends the game a really mysterious and intriguing atmosphere. It kinda feels like the Myst games. You're in a bizarre foreign country and something fishy is going on, but you're not really sure what.

Another good example is Silas, your companion throughout the game. You speak to several members of his family and they all hint that he seems to be wandering aimlessly through his life. There is also a strong implication that he feels stifled within, what he sees as, a very successful family. Again, we're never blatantly told anything; the game trusts us to figure it out for ourselves.

Balloon Diaspora may be beautifully subtle, but I'm certainly not! The fucking writing is top shit!

All in all, Balloon Diaspora is a tremendous game. It's weird, wonderful, funny, intriguing and - at times - incredibly sad. Boasting a gorgeous art style and an even gorgeous-er soundtrack, it's easily one of my favourite indie games. 

Also, I want to do a sex on it.

I give it a rating of: 

5Poorly photo-shopped Walter Sobchaks /5  

"Pretty good!"

So there it is! The Humble Indie Bungle!
This one turned out kinda like a review, but I doubt they will all be like that.
Seeya next week!   read

7:53 AM on 09.23.2013

Confessions of a Review Score Junkie


8.8? Are you fucking kidding me? Shit goddamn. I'm going to have to slit some throats over this one. What the fuck is wrong with you Jeff Gerstmann? Why would you ever give a Zelda game less than a 10? I hope you're happy! Miyamoto is rolling in his grave! Is Miyamoto dead? No? Fuck it.

This was me. These were the thoughts floating around in my head in November of 2006. I may have embellished them with a slightly more inflammatory style than I was capable of at age 11; but you get the idea. This was the sort of unbridled rage that a review score I didn't agree with could conjure in me. A white hot anger that, up until that point, I had never felt. 

But who can blame an 11 year old, right? What are 11 year olds good for? Nothing. They can't drink. They can't drive. They can't gamble. Most of them can't even speak properly. Idiots.

The problem is that this type of anger stayed with me for quite some time. It stayed with me long after I could blame it on youthful folly.

This is the story of how - over the past year - I've stopped getting so worked up over review scores.

Let's skip ahead a couple of years. The next major console Zelda game, and the same website gives it a lowly 7.5.

You probably don't need to be told this, but I am a giant Nintendo nerd. A Nintendo bitch, even. I'm the guy gushing over anything Miyamoto has touched. I'm the guy who hasn't written a single blog without mentioning Nintendo. I'm the guy trying to convince people that New Super Mario Bros. 2 is an innovative new take on the platformer genre. You get the idea. What this means, is that I have an irrational and almost emotional bond to any game made by Nintendo. It's pretty fucking unhealthy.

So naturally, when Tom Mc Shea had the unmitigated audacity to give a Zelda game a 7.5, I was livid. I was entertaining some truly violent and unhealthy thoughts towards the man.

Let's be clear. I never commented on the site. I never actually hurled any of these hysterical and homicidal thoughts towards Tom Mcshea or Gamespot proper. I did, however, read just about every hysterical and homicidal comment on the review. I did read just about every blog post and video response to the review. And I did feel vindicated in the knowledge that the man I hated so virulently was receiving such a strong backlash.
Of course, I hadn't actually played the game yet. That would make too much sense.

Let's skip forward again. March of this year saw the release of Luigi's Mansion 2; a game I was hotly anticipating.

I played Luigi's Mansion 2 to completion before I read the reviews. That's not usually how I do things, but I decided to try something different. Simply put, I loved the game. It probably had a lot to do with the fact that there was a Nintendo logo on the front of the box. That usually does it.

I checked the reviews right after I finished it. Most of them reflected my own personal opinion: somewhere between an 8.5 and a 9.5.

Then I saw the Gamespot review. Then I saw the 6.5. I could feel the white hot anger beginning to brew within me. I scrolled down the page, looking for some vicious comments to help me justify my own rage.  

The first comment I saw absolutely disgusted me. The reviewer - Carolyn Petit - is a trans Woman, and this commenter wasted no time in throwing out as many slurs as they possibly could. It made me feel awful. I didn't want to be associated with someone like that.

But I couldn't just respectfully disagree with Carolyn, could I? She gave a game I loved an ostensibly bad score; so the only natural reaction was to harbour a violent grudge against her. Right?

Wrong. As I came to learn in June of this year.

The Last of Us is a game I adore. It's one of the most emotionally moving gaming experiences I've ever had. But it wasn't made by Nintendo. Which means that I don't have a weird, unhealthy and irrational love for it. I just really really like it.

I read the reviews and - as with Luigi's Mansion 2- most of them matched up to my personal approximation of the game's score.

Then I saw the Gamespot review. Then I saw the 8. And the most amazing thing happened. I didn't get angry. I didn't feel the need to physically and verbally assault Tom Mc Shea. I didn't agree with him at all, but that was totally okay.

I scrolled down to the comments. They were filled with the same sort of violent hate that filled the comment section of every review I've mentioned thus far. I suddenly saw these comments for exactly what they were. A vulgar, horrific and embarrassing waste of time.

The transformation that started with Luigi's Mansion 2 was almost complete. But the biggest test was yet to come. Another Nintendo game.

Pikmin 3? More Like Dick-min Pee. I'm sorry. It felt like there hadn't been a joke in a while.

I love Pikmin 3 so much. You have no idea. The story mode is terrific, the mission mode is stupidly satisfying and my friends and I are still finding new and exciting ways to fuck each other over in Bingo Battle.

I read the Gamespot review first this time around. I saw that the score was a little under what I would have given the game. But for some odd reason I didn't feel the need to kill Tom Mc Shea. I didn't even scroll down to find justification for my position. In fact, I entertained no malicious thoughts whatsoever.

It was utterly refreshing. A revelation. I read the review; respectfully disagreed with it; and then went straight back to playing Pikmin 3.  

So that's how I'm going to approach reviews from now on. Getting worked up over scores just doesn't make sense to me anymore. Tom Mc Shea can give my favourite games whatever score he wants. I'll still be interested to read the review, but I won't feel the need to send him death threats.

But mark my words, if he gives Super Mario 3D World anything less than a 9.5 I'm going to slit his fucking throat.   read

9:49 AM on 09.11.2013

The Secret of Spelunky

Recently I've been watching (and thoroughly enjoying) The Daily Spelunk. Apart from acting as a constant and painful reminder of my own ineptitude at the delicate art of Spelunky, it's also reignited my fascination with the game.

There is a lot to love about Spelunky. It's perilous pitfalls and precise platforming are almost endlessly intriguing. At turns onerous and agonizing, it's also filled to bursting point with awesome and inventive little touches. And goodness knows, I need as many little touches as I can get. Let's just say that I haven't been at bursting point in a very long time.

But what is it about Spelunky that enthrals us so much? What trickery lies at the heart of the game's appeal? What is it about this roguish little roguelike that keeps us glued to our screens?

I can't speak for anyone else, but I think I've figured out why - in the face of unending defeat - I continue to punish myself.

Let me tell you a story.

My videogame history begins with the Nintendo 64. A divisive console to be sure, but one that has a very definite place in my heart. Nostalgia clouds every memory I have of the N64, so it's probably wise to take everything I say with a pinch of salt. Scratch that. It's probably best to make it a wheelbarrow of salt.

I remember several games from this period of my life. I remember Super Mario 64. I remember Smash Bros. I remember Episode One: Pod Racer. I remember Goldeneye. And, no matter how hard I try scrub it from the corners of my mind, I remember Rugrats: Scavenger Hunt.

But the games that stick out in my memory - the ones that I poured Spelunky-esque amounts of time into - are Banjo Tooie, Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask. When I was a kid there seemed to be a mysterious allure to those three games. I always felt as if they, more than any others, contained labyrinthine worlds chock full of secrets waiting to be discovered.

I remember sitting in the playroom, the floor strewn with errant Lego pieces, and watching my big brothers play.

I remember starting my own save file and venturing forth to discover these secrets for myself.

In Ocarina of time it was the Running Man. I remember seeing his gawkish frame jog over the hill for the first time and being utterly befuddled. Why did this character exist? Where did he fit within this world?

In Banjo Tooie it was the ice key. Aside from making like 4-kajillion brilliant games, Rare spent most of the 90's being a giant troll. Stop 'n' Swop. What the fuck was that? Who knows. All I know is that when my brothers and I figured out that the Ice Key turned Kazooie into a dragon, I nearly shit myself.

In Majora's Mask it was everything. Seriously. Every single sidequest and character in that game is brimming with a kind of exuberant enigmatism. The clear standout - if only for it's gleeful absurdity - has to be the hand ineffectually grasping for paper in the Stock Pot Inn. I think that was the first Zelda sidequest I ever figured out all by myself.

In all of these instances I felt as if I had been let in on some grand secret. As if I had solved some intricate mystery. As if I was the only person in the world who had deciphered the game's subtle clues.  

Spelunky also makes me feel that way. It makes me feel like a kid setting out on a huge adventure, searching for secrets.

I was blown away when I first realised that letting the ghost run over jewels turns them into diamonds. Surely I was part of only a minority of people smart enough to stumble upon this privileged information. I wasn't. But that's not the point. I felt like I had solved a mystery. And I hadn't truly felt that way since the N64.

And it goes deeper. Watching the Daily Spelunk has alerted me to all manner of spelunking secrets. The City of Gold. The Worm. The Mothership. Snake pits. The fucking eggplant.

One begins to think that with so many secrets discovered, perhaps Spelunky simply holds no more. I wouldn't be surprised if we have in fact discovered everything it has to offer. But to be perfectly honest, I don't care. Spelunky still makes me feel like it's treacherous corridors are bursting with secrets to uncover. And that's what is important.

This, I think, is the game's true genius.

And so I keep on spelunking. I venture forward in an attempt to finally make it to the ice caves. I see countless struggles ahead and am fully prepared to encounter failure at every turn. Sometimes I don't even make it past the first level. But that doesn't matter. The scent of mystery and the promise of adventure spur me on. There are secrets in those caves, and I'm going to be the one to discover them!

The walls are shifting...   read

10:08 AM on 08.27.2013

Art Styles? More like FART Styles!

I am really excited for The Wonderful 101. I've been really excited for The Wonderful 101 for a while now.

It is, ostensibly, a balls to the wall action game. This is not a genre I've ever played a great deal of or been particularly interested in.

It was developed by Platinum Games. They are not a developer I'm madly in love with or have ever been particularly interested in. The only exposure I've had with them is the demo of Metal Gear Rising: Revengance. (Which I didn't really enjoy...but I'll get to that later)

So the question remains, why have I been so excited for The Wonderful 101? Is it because it heralds the end of the Wii U software drought? Possibly, but I think it's something more than that. Something within the game itself. Something which caught my eye from the very first trailer.

It's the Art Style you guys. I mean, you probably already guessed that from the title. Which, in reality, means that this whole intro has been totally pointless.

Fuck it.

Now, I know that being excited for an action game purely because of the art style is kinda silly. Believe me, I know. What's more, it is impossible for me to justify spending $80 (Welcome to Australia Motherfuckers!) on a game whose gameplay I have zero interest in. But I just can't help myself. There is something about it's colourful comic book aesthetic that really excites me.

It's lucky, then, that Platinum Games decided to grace us all with an eshop demo. I quickly downloaded said demo. What was the worst that could happen? It could actually be an elaborate trap; the last step in a plan Nintendo put into action way back in 1889 when they first started making Hanafuda cards. Build up peoples trust with a series of successful consoles, and then BOOM! release an imprisoning torture device disguised as niche game demo and, if everything goes to plan, enslave the world.

I decided to take my chances.

You'll be happy to hear that, imprisoning torture notwithstanding, I thoroughly enjoyed the demo. In fact I loved it! It was awesome!

So, it turns out that I AM interested in action games. What's more, I AM interested in Platinum Games as a developer. The question is, why has it taken me so long to realise this?

Like I said earlier, I've actually come into contact with a Platinum style action game before. It was the demo for Metal Gear Rising: Revengance. To be perfectly honest, I hated it. It felt needlessly complicated and I had absolutely no idea what was going on. 

And I felt that way when I first started playing W101. There seemed to be a hundred different things going on at once and the game didn't seem particularly concerned that I had no idea what was happening.

I gave up on Revengance after a couple of minutes, but I kept playing W101. Purely because I loved the art. I wanted to see more of that wacky world. And you know what happened? I got better. I figured out how to do things. And I found the gameplay incredibly satisfying.

My point is that art styles aren't the most important thing ever. Ultimately, what ended up keeping me interested in W101 over the long haul was the gameplay. BUT I never would have discovered the fun to be had in it's gameplay; I never would have persisted; had it not had a really awesome art style.

But don't take my word for it. Let's look at some more examples of the impact of art styles. Examples that I will be writing. So, I mean, you are actually going to need to take my word for it, I guess. 

Dragon's Crown.

*Pause for shit-storm*

Man-oh-man. The video game industry sure does love a controversy, doesn't it? It seems we can't go a week without a furious explosion. I'm sure you all heard about the Dragon's Crown clash. Berated by many for it's bare and buxom babes, the game caused quite the blow-up. It then went on to spark even more of a shit-storm when a Polygon reviewer gave it a 6.5, a score many saw as unfair.

Now. I'm not going to tell you what I think of Dragon's Crown's art style. I'd like to keep my kneecaps intact. But what's important is that, for some people, the voluptuous art style was enough to stop them from enjoying the game. For others, it was even enough to stop them from playing altogether.

Regardless of your opinion on the matter, it must be acknowledged that an art style can be an incredibly powerful influence on our feelings for a game.

Here's another example. A whole bunch of games were shown at this years Gamescom. There were two games that stood out to me in particular though. Rime and Everybody's Gone to the Rapture.

Rime was developed by Tequila Works, the makers of Deadlight. That game was, by all accounts, pretty balls. And yet I see Rime and I'm filled with boyish glee. As many people have said, it looks like Wind Waker and Ico had a baby. I could not possibly be more okay with this. I wanna play that game so much.

Everybody's Gone to the Rapture was developed by The Chinese Room, the makers of Dear Esther (oh man, let's just touch on every controversial game ever). I was pretty indifferent towards that game, and yet Everybody's Gone to the Rapture - which looks to be in a very similar vein - has my interest considerably piqued.

Basically, I have absolutely no reason to be as excited as I am for these two gamse, and yet they've both grabbed my attention and won't let go. Again, it's purely because they have super interesting art styles. Shelter is another good example of this. Even after watching the trailer, I have no idea what the game is about. But I want to play it just so I can look at it.

And now, for my last trick, I'm going to talk about Nintendo again. Everyone always says the New Super Mario Bros. games are basically the same. And who can blame them? They all look exactly the fucking same! But what about Zelda games? They are all (at least structurally) incredibly similar. So why do people not complain about the similarity of Zelda games as much?

You guessed it. SHART styles. ahahahaha. (I was going to use that one for the title, but I figured it was probably a little too much)

Compare the cartoonish simplicity of Wind Waker with the freakish and bizarre world of Twilight Princess. Now think about the impressionist styling's of Skyward Sword. Now think about the differences between the style of New Super Mario Bros. and New Super Mario Bros. 2. You can't. Because there aren't any.

Perhaps people wouldn't make unfavourable comparisons between the NSMB games if they showed the graphical variety seen in the Zelda games.

Anyway. In conclusion. I don't think a good art style is the be all and end all. Fun gameplay will, in most cases, trump art style. But I guess I didn't realise - until I played and enjoyed the demo for The Wonderful 101 - how pivotal an art style can be in wether or not I enjoy a game.

I'd love to hear wether anyone else experiences this phenomenon. How much do art styles matter to you? Do you think an art style can completely ruin a game? Do you get excited about games purely because of their art style? Would you be more excited to play the NSMB games if they changed up their art style more often?


If you like pretty video games as much as I do, you should check out this website. It showcases art from a whole bunch of awesome games. It's terrific!   read

6:50 PM on 08.17.2013

Dishonored and Pikmin 3 are basically the same game!

I'm a pretty stupid guy. The thoughts that form in my head are - more often than not - complete and utter nonsense. For example, one time I thought it would be a good idea to ride my bike into a fence. That's not even a joke. A younger me genuinely thought that would be a good idea. In another display of unimaginable ignorance, I once watched the movie Space Jam all the way through. I wish I was kidding.

I had one such thought the other day. I was on the bus.


Now, usually, I keep these thoughts hidden away like the shameful Golden Girls DVD in the grimy abyss of my DVD collection(that I totally don't even own....whatever.....It's not even a big deal) Goodness knows that saying them aloud would  only end in pain. However, every now and then one of them bypasses my filters (my better judgement) and is spluttered from my mouth in what appears, to me at least, to be a moment of pure clarity and genius. 

Sitting on the bus, staring out the window, the following the words erupted from the vacuous cave some refer to as "my mouth":

Dishonored And Pikmin 3 are basically the same game!

A cursory examination of that statement would, for most people, be enough to acknowledge it for exactly what it is: crazy-talk. But I'm not most people. I'm pretty stupid. I watched Space Jam all the way through. So I let the thought mull in my head, and came up with a few things I really like about those games. Then I made a few neat little comparisons between the two.



You know what's exciting? Talking about the structure of a video game. That was sarcasm. I did a sarcasm.

The thing I love the most about Dishonored, is the way it dumps you in a level; gives you a vague approximation of the location of your target; and then just lets you basically do whatever you want. This means you can choose not only HOW you play the level (we'll talk about that later) but also the pace at which you want to play the level. Rather than a linear corridor, each of the levels is like a mini sandbox.

Pikmin 3 is very similar. You can go get some fruit if you want to. You can go fight a boss if you want to. You can just take a look around if you want to. You can get half way to your objective then turn around and go back and do something else if you want to.

It takes the best from both linear and sandbox games!

You know which movie has a terrible structure? Space Jam. I should know, I watched Space Jam all the way through. Christ almighty.

Player Choice!


Player choice. Everyone is always talking about player choice. I like making choices, you like making choices. Choice's are great, but in games they - more often than not - amount to little more than a black and white "Be a good guy!" or "Be a bad guy!" cut scene scenario. You know what's awesome? Being able to actually choose how you PLAY the game. Pikmin 3 and Dishonored totally nail this.

In Dishonored you can play stealthily, or you can run, guns blazing, into a room of dudes and knife the shit out of them. You can even do a little of both if you so desire! The game accommodates for basically any style of play you wish to pursue.
Choices are awesome! I remember a choice I once made. I decided to watch Space Jam all the way through. It was awful.

Now, in Pikmin 3 you can take a huge legion of Pikmin and attempt to swarm your enemy OR you can opt for a leaner, meaner, more manoeuvrable group and aim for a strategic attack.

The best part, is that the different play styles create different feelings. A small team of Pikmin creates tension and makes speed and austerity a goal. A large group, on the other hand, basically becomes a game of numbers. You gain strength, but must sacrifice more of your troops.

For me, that sort of choice is so much more cooler than a silly "Moral choice" that the game blatantly signposts.   

Moral and ethical stuff!


Gameplay choice is awesome, but both Pikmin 3 and Dishonored also use the way you play to make moral and ethical statements.

Dishonored is perhaps a little heavy handed in this respect. You get the bad ending if you kill everyone. That's pretty obvious. Killing people is bad. If you kill people you get a shitty ending.

Pikmin 3 on the other hand is very subtle. If your play style causes a mass Pikmin slaughter, you are treated to the heartbreaking sound of their death screams and the soul crushing sight of their adorable ghosts floating upwards into the ether. Moreover, if you play recklessly and leave stragglers behind, you are shown - in suitably depressing fashion - the harsh realities of your actions.

You know what was neither moral, nor ethical? My friends and family just sitting by and letting me watch motherfucking Space Jam all the way through. Lord, give me strength.

Also, you don't actually need to get all of the fruit to beat Pikmin 3. However nabbing more of the native flora can make the whole experience a little less stressful. Do you ruthlessly harvest the entire planet, leaving its inhabitants to slowly starve? Or, do you only take what you need to survive?

Moral and ethical comments like this - that are linked back to the gameplay choices we were discussing earlier - are really interesting to me.  


In conclusion, Space Jam is the worst movie I have ever seen. Oh, and Pikmin 3 and Dishonored are kinda similar I guess.

As always, I'd be very interested to hear what you guys think.


I went for a slightly sillier tone in this one. What did ya'll think? Too much?

Incidentally, I was thinking about making a series out of this idea. If I were to do that, the next one would either be "Luigi's Mansion 2 and Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons are basically the same game!" OR "Papers, Please and The Swapper are basically the same game!"   read

5:06 AM on 08.11.2013

The Difference Between Cynicism and Scepticism (and Why it’s Important!)

As I said in my first blog, I'm relatively new to the video game scene. I've always played video games, but it's only in the last few years that I've become savvy to their aptitude for telling stories. What's more, the last two years have also made me savvy to that towering complicated and captivating behemoth: the video game industry.

If I've learnt anything in my short time here, it's that this industry can be a fickle beast. It's young, burgeoning and seems to be attempting to pull off the seemingly impossible feat of balancing business and artistic expression. This interplay creates an unpredictability and volatility that is utterly fascinating to observe. It also means that, at times, the video game industry can be a little disheartening to behold:

I see EA up to its distinct brand of shady chicanery and nefarious no-goodery

I see some members of the game community being just a little less than civil

I see Square Enix attempting to sell people a mortgage dressed up as a video game

I see Aliens: Colonial Marines...

All this can make me incredibly cynical at times. And really, in some cases (*cough*Aliens*cough*) who can blame me? The problem I run into, is that being cynical isn't a particularly enjoyable way to be. What's more, it isn't productive in any way. Ken Levine once said:

I totally agree with him, but find it increasingly difficult to ward off cynicism's wayward grasps.

But I think I've found the answer, and it lies in the most pedantic of hair-splitting. It lies in the difference between cynicism and scepticism.

Let me explain...

The difference between cynicism and scepticism is minute. It is miniscule. It is tiny. It is diminutive. It is....exhausting my thesaurus. But for me, the difference between these two is incredibly important.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines people who use dictionary definitions as complete assholes. So I'm not going to bore you with that. However, I will explain the differences between the words as I understand them.

A cynic assumes the worst of everyone and everything.

A sceptic is someone who has doubts and is not easily convinced.

See what I mean? The difference is so microscopic that it's almost negligible, but they do mean different things. A cynic would automatically assume that a game that contains questionable content is homophobic, sexist and transphobic. A sceptic would have reservations, would not be easily convinced BUT would totally be open to being convinced. (That is a stupid and exaggerated example)

But why does the difference matter, you might ask. And rightly so. Well, in all honesty, there are many areas of the game industry that don't deserve undying praise and a cheery disposition. But there ARE plenty of genuinely awesome things going on in the video game industry:

I see companies like EA openly supporting gay rights

I see brilliant AAA games being developed

I see a thriving indie community

I see philanthropy

I see a strong desire to push the art form to its absolute limits

Christ, I even see Nintendo making an effort (albeit an adorably awkward one) to be more inclusive of female gamers

I see all of these things, and all of these things excite me. They excite me enough that I really ought to be an optimist. Unfortunately, I - by nature - have the personality of a cantankerous old man and usually tend to focus on those more disheartening areas we talked about earlier. (And being a total grouch can sometimes be a lot of fun...)

However, these things do excite me enough that the difference between cynicism and scepticism is relevant and important. I'm not saying we should all be super happy and excited people all the time. That's just ridiculous. I'm just suggesting that there is a difference between productive negativity and unproductive negativity, and I think it lies in the difference between cynicism and scepticism.

As always, I would be very interested to hear your thoughts.


Right, that's quite enough of that sappy bullshit. Incidentally, if this line of thought sounds familiar to you, it's probably because it is very similar to some stuff Penn Jillette says. I'm not saying I totally and completely plagiarised every single part of it....but it probably wouldn't exist if I hadn't seen that video.

Also, I did another blog, you guys! For reals! I can now call myself a blogger!   read

5:18 AM on 07.25.2013

Short Intro and a List

I was always a movie guy. Over the past two years I've come to realise that video games are an incredibly powerful medium to tell stories with. Much more than I initially thought. It turns out that video games are the best, you guys. It’s just taken me a while to figure that out. I really like writing about things, so I figured I may as well give this a shot. This is my first time writing something like this, so feel free to rip my arsehole asunder with your almighty fists of criticism.

Alright. Let’s get this shit show started. And what better way to start my video game writing career than with a beloved (read: maligned) video game chestnut. Yep, you guessed it! It’s the totally arbitrary and objective list! So, grab ahold of your tits, and prepare yourself for my:

Top 5 Video Game Songs that Immediately Conjure Images of the Levels they’re from!

Let me explain…

There’s a great interview with Quentin Tarantino on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack in which he talks about the process of choosing music for his movies. Of particular interest is his discussion of how he attempts to immortalise a song in a viewer’s mind. Put simply, his ultimate goal is to match a song with a scene so perfectly that if a person hears that song in any other context they will immediately remember the exact scene from the movie.

A great example would be the Stealer’s Wheel song, Stuck in the Middle with You. Most people – upon hearing it – immediately think of THAT scene in reservoir dogs. You know the one. And if you haven’t seen the movie, go and watch it. It’s t-EAR-iffic….. dear god, what has New Leaf done to me?

Now, apart from being incredibly fascinating, the interview got me to thinking. Does this phenomenon exist in video games? And I realised that it totally does! Those first six notes of the Mario theme are, as Paul Simon puts it, “woven indelibly into our hearts and our brains.” (He was actually talking about optimism and the deep human longing for betterment, but whatever....fuck it) We can’t hear them without being immediately transported to Stage 1-1 (or whichever Mario game we happened to first hear them in). So, with that in mind, I did what any self-respecting video game fan would do in that situation:

I wrote a list.

*Spoilers….sorta…..I guess*

5. Thirty Flights of Loving - End Titles

The world of Citizen Abel is one of consummate style. Every inch of every level has been designed with an attention to detail that is astounding. The music only enhances this. Jumping between big band themes that recall Bond Films and a simple foreboding piano melody, Thirty Flights of Loving’s soundtrack is pretty fucking amazing. But its end title theme always takes me straight back to that final scene in the museum. I’ve got no idea what just happened, but I’m pretty sure our protagonist is utterly rogered.

4. Animal Crossing – 5PM

I played – as did many- an unnatural amount of the original Animal Crossing when I was young.  Now, it could just be that, because of school, I happened to play it at 5 PM a whole bunch. It could just be that. But I still honestly believe that the 5PM theme embodies the simple and unique fun that only the Animal Crossing series can provide. Walking around, helping villagers, planning a violent uprising against that cretinous financial tyrant Tom Nook….

3. Balloon Diaspora – You Can Call me X

Cardboard Computer (the talented gentleman behind Kentucky Route Zero) are, without a doubt, my favourite indie developer. Their games have this mystical enigmatic quality that draws me in like nothing else. I really can’t quite pin it down. One thing’s for sure though; Cardboard Computer games have tremendous soundtracks that work in beautiful harmony with their art. If you haven’t played Balloon Diaspora, go now. Seriously. Go. It’s free and it’ll take you like 20 minutes (but if you like it, you should totally pay the $5 for it, because it’s awesome, and those guys should have more money, so they can make more games, with the money that they have, that you gave them). This song plays during the first encounter in the game, and perfectly encapsulates it’s bizarre and wonderful atmosphere.

2. Bioshock Infinite – Girls Just Want to Have Fun

Ludo narrative dissonance be damned! I loved Bioshock Infinite and I loved its soundtrack even more. Ken Levine is a master of that tarantino-esque ability we were discussing earlier. No longer – upon hearing God Only Knows – will I think about the final scene in Love Actually. Instead, I will be instantly transported back to the gorgeous and terrifying city of Columbia. But that’s not the song I picked. The one song in Bioshock Infinite that most powerfully returns me to a specific moment in the game is the terrific calliope cover of Cindy Lauper’s Girls Just Want to Have Fun. The Boardwalk level is one of the game’s best, and this song brilliantly captures it's whimsical mood and innocent fun. It is particularly powerful given what comes next in the game.

1. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask – Astral Observatory

You clamber through the dark and dank sewers under Clock town. You find yourself in a seemingly disused room with boxes, a scarecrow and a rainbow staircase leading upwards. You walk up the stairs. An old man, an astronomer, watches you. He knows the truth. He’s aware of Clock town’s fate. But he also accepts that he is powerless to stop it. And so he stands in his observatory on the hill and waits for the end.

Nintendo’s darkest game is, in my opinion, also its best. The second I hear the Astral Observatory theme I am instantly transported back to that level. What’s more, I am instantly transported to the mood that pervades every second of that game. You only need to visit the astral observatory a few times to complete the game, but whenever I play Majora's Mask I find myself returning there with alarming regularity. It’s rare to find a level that so flawlessly melds music and art design to create a cohesive whole that is greater than the sum of its - already terrific - parts.

Right. So. There’s a thing. Feel free to reply with songs that have a similar effect on you. Is that how blogging works? I have no fucking idea what I’m doing…   read

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