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:
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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 looksUNSAFE!
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:
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.
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.
Chronological position within David Lynch's Filmography: About an hour before TheElephant 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.
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...
I've come to the conclusion thatThe 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 and....well....you'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.
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
~ 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!