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.
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!
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.
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.
*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!
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. 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!"
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 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:
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!
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.
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…