I am a British male, I like movies, books, poetry, music and videogames. My favorite thing about videogames is their artistic qualities; stuff like sound design, art direction and that general pith, I especially love stylized games with a touch of retro and the macabre.
Below is a picture of me as an 80's detective
I owe roughly 43% of my brain to Klei Entertainment, Playdead Studios and Quentin Tarantino.
Hideo Kojima, Chris Nolan and Ken Levine can fight over the rest.
I've finally been released from the grasp of BioShock: Infinite which is seriously the best game I've played for a long, long time and I can tell it's going to be my personal GOTY (unless something really surprises me) and I'd very much like to write about it soon. Also the protagonist Booker DeWitt has my initials tattooed on the back of his hand so what's not to like!
But I digress, as I also recently finished Thomas Was Alone I'd like to write a little bit about one of my favourite genres; the humble platformer.
The platformer to me is the perfect blend of pure delirious fun and technical skill and whilst I do like my videogames to have depth and story it is sometimes worth remembering that they do exist as a piece of entertainment and were made for our enjoyment.
With that said however you will find below some platformers which I feel defy the implied limitations of the genre and bring so much more with them then joy:
Super Mario World
This has to be the first, simply because it is the first. My first ever console was my uncle's second hand SNES and it came with Donkey Kong Country, Super Mario All-Stars and a few others. It also came with Super Mario World which is probably one of my top 5 games of all time.
The game handled well, the controls were tight and when we got our first colour TV I fell in love with the games visuals. What I like most about SMW from a design standpoint is it's inclusion of secrets. You needed to be smart and always looking out for hidden doors, especially in the ghost houses. I still think that the Secret World with the hilarious 80's/90's themed level titles is one of my favourite secrets of any game ever. SMW is on the surface a run of the mill Mario title, but if you let yourself become invested in it, you'll find a surprising amount of depth.
For those that say videogames can't be artistic I would like to direct them to Rayman Origins (and to Limbo, but I'll talk about that later). Rayman Origins is a bloody gorgeous game.
The art and sound design is impeccable, the animations are fluid, characters look fantastic, levels are well thought out and provide a wonderful backdrop to the antics of Rayman and his buddies.
These things alone earn it high ranking in my eyes, but combine that with simple controls, sublime handling and the ability to build up a rhythm within seconds and you have poetry in motion. A perfect platformer and one of my favourite games of all time.
As with Super Meat Boy death is more a mild obstacle than a ball ache and is little more than a hiccup in the games flow. If there are any readers that haven't gotten into platformers, I STRONGLY recommend checking out Rayman Origins as it might just change your mind.
Thomas Was Alone
At a meagre price on Steam (soon to be on the Vita) and featuring narration by the wonderful Danny Wallace (that's Shaun Hastings of AssCreed for the non-British) TWA is a steal (you have no idea how tempting it is to put another T on the end of that).
To say the game is simple is an understatement, characters are coloured quadrilaterals leaping on or over specifically placed groups of quadrilaterals The writing and controls are competent but what stands out for me in this game is the team dynamic. I felt strangely invested in the little red rectangle and his friends despite not hearing a single word from them. Each character has their own unique skillset and personality and serve as a reminder that you can have many characters with depth in a simple platformer, it doesn't have to be one playable character doing everything against everyone else and there is a way to provide challenge without having to include enemies.
For £6 and a decent gameplay time, TWA is proof that there is a lot of hope left for indie platformers, that don't need to copy most of their elements from Mario (ahem Braid).
Limbo is just as artistic as Rayman Origins in my opinion, but not in the bright colourful "Celebration of Life and Imagination!" kind of way.
The game is genuinely unsettling, a lot of this is due to it's grey-scale colour scheme, it's amazing sound design and the perspective doing everything it can to remind you that you are an insignificant speck and it really is a miracle that you are alive. Bleakness is what they aimed for and they got bullseye.
The horror elements of Limbo are rooted in atmosphere, atmosphere is everything for Limbo and it's drawn me in just as much as Lone Survivor and Silent Hill before it. The denial of knowledge approach is certainly effective in this instance, ordinarily a situation where you know you could be killed at any second with no idea when or how would be frustrating, but the sheer frequency of checkpoints quickly kicks that notion into touch.
To anyone who says that horror is fixed to a certain genre of game, Limbo is one giant, stark middle finger.
I will give a brief nod to Cave Story as, although it didn't do anything awe-inspiring for me, it is a fantastic game. Readily available, very well made, plays like a dream and a hell of a lot of fun. Go play it!
Also, although I hate a lot about it, honourable mention goes to Braid. It had a really well implemented time mechanic and very slim, very faint beam of genius shone through during the end sequence. It's a shame that it just lifted many more of it's elements from a well established series, demonstrated all of it's story in one of the worst ways possible and was about as deep as Battletoads...
Man I love Battletoads.
I'd like to give a brief introduction before the serious stuff:
I'm currently training to become an engineer, and as such I attend the local college occasionally to prove that my skills in maths, physics and all the mechanical and electronic things in-between are up to scratch.
Here in the UK we have something called Key Skills, which basically is a bunch of boring, rubbish assignments that the colleges makes it's students (even the part timers) go through to ensure they get funded from the govornments. One of these assignments is a piece demonstrating the ability to communicate with written words on a topic of my choosing. I chose videogame and movie violence as, simply put, it is a topic that many people get wrong and it irritates me.
I'd love to hear what the Destructoid community thinks of it, I also apologise for the worn out topic (be warned it's supposed to be serious so don't expect lame jokes!)
Here it goes...
With the atrocious Sandy Hook shootings still fresh in people’s memories many designers and directors have come under fire for their work. Through a tenuous link the news media has been quick to point to the shooters fascination with violent videogames and films. The response to this statement has been drastic to say the least; one of the more extreme examples was the proposed public burning of what was deemed “violent media”. Residents of the Connecticut town Southington were encouraged to bring children along and were invited to bring copies of films, television shows, video games and even books to a public burning, the likes of which have not been seen since the religious outrage and public burnings of the British heavy metal band Iron Maiden’s catalogue in protest to supposed Satanist themes. The event was proposed by the help group SouthingtonSOS.
While an event like this will surely send a message, will it send the right message?
At the very least demonstrating to children that bad things can be removed through violence is going to be detrimental to their development, if not worse for them by substituting the often over embellished, ridiculous violence of the fictional realm with a very real and very scary mass burning.
Experts will say that it is a parent’s duty to ensure that their children are either;
• Kept away from material that is deemed inappropriate by them or organisations such as the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board), PEGI (Pan European Game Information) and the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification).
• Kept under parental guidance when exposed to content that may be deemed questionable.
• Consulted by an expert if the parent suspects their child may have a mental disorder, anger issues or psychopathic tendancies.
Despite actual evidence suggesting that the shooter was exposed no more to violent media than every other average young male, and research showing that with the soaring popularity of videogames youth violence has actually declined to its lowest level within 40 plus years people are convinced that children and young adults are rapidly becoming desensitized to violence in the real world due to it’s increasing presence in the virtual one, and with newspapers and other news media regularly skewing views and leaving minor yet important details out of research results actual problems, issues and events that may be the actual cause of horrific events such as the Sandy Hook and Aurora shootings are being pushed aside in favour of an easier target to pin the blame on.
For example the statement “A study reported that 60 per cent of schoolboys who played a game above their age limit hit someone” not only neglects to mention any details about who these schoolboys hit but also neglects to mention who these schoolboys actually are, is the sample actually representative of every schoolboy in the world, or was it just 10 boys taken from a disadvantaged area. There is no direct evidence to state that video games or movies make children violence. For one, all research carried out is inaccurate, as to perform an appropriate experiment on children would require exposing children to mature content, which is wholly unethical. There is also the failure of mentioning that the research shows a correlation rather than a cause and effect relationship. A correlation is not direct proof, for example there is a correlation between eating chocolate and being fat but to assume that this means that everyone who eats chocolate is fat (or conversely everyone who is fat always eats chocolate) is wrong.
The prestigious director Quentin Tarantino has also recently come under fire for his recent Bafta winning blockbuster Django Unchained, critics have not only commented on the films liberal (but completely justified) use of the N word but in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting the directors trademark use of over the top fantasy violence has been questioned.
Tarantino’s response to this included remarks about how tired he was of defending his films every time there is a shooting in America, he finished with the quote; “I just think you know there's violence in the world, tragedies happen, blame the playmakers. It's a western. Give me a break." followed up then by stating that the blame for violence should remain squarely with the perpetrators.
Although whether the blame lies with the “fetishization” of violence or the actual perpetrator still only comes down to personal opinion, it is a sad truth that there are mentally ill people in the world that can’t be helped or who go unnoticed until a tragedy occurs, and in the case of John Lennon’s murder it is shown that religion or the belief that you are carrying out the will of god can be just as effective as videogames or movies in triggering a madman’s rampage. The world has psychopaths in it, and all they need to be set off is the right trigger.
With the release of Dead Space 3 and Aliens: Colon. Marines, a lot of talk is undoubtably going to be had about being scard, the lack of being scared and how game design no longer makes anyone scared. But I disagree, and I'll tell you for why;
I love horror.
I love being scared, I love the fear of the unknown, I love the feeling of having to walk through a silent town at 1AM because you stayed too late at that girls house watching horror movies and now you're making every concious effort not to sprint home bawling like a child because Cenobites/Mad Axemen/Demons/The Great Satan/Kayako Saeki is probably behind you getting ready to cause a world of hurt!
The utterly fantastic thing about horror as a medium is there are so many wonderful ways to create it, I'm just as big a fan of the jump scare as the slow burn, sometimes it's as much about, if not more, what isn't seen or heard versus what is. It's one of the reasons why I think the Alien series (well the first 2 anyway) are so effective in making me drop a deuce.
Juxtaposition is also a useful tool, I will once again draw on Adventure Time as an example, especially the City of Freaks episode, where the cute art style is given a run for it's money against some horrific imagery (my favourite being when the magic man demonstrates his abilities on a bird).
As could be guessed however, my favourite thing about horror is the aesthetics.
Some of my favourite pieces of entertainment have come from the magical duo Penn & Teller, in particular the trick "Shadows" in which the pairs macabre comedy style is left behind for 2 minutes, lights are shut off, leaving only the silent Teller, a vase, a knife and a projector. If you have not seen it, watch the video I'm going to insert below, I STRONGLY recommend it. What you see and what you don't hear spark an incredible response for me, always producing a smile and at the same time a little touch of fear and if you can tell me, dear reader, that it did not make you feel something special, you might as well tell me that you eat raw puppies.
Every time I watch The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari or Nosferatu I am in awe of how right they got it despite the time, the German Expressionist design on the sets of Dr. Cal. and of course the shadow of the beast Nosferatu ascending the stairs are images that will forever be referred to as classics in Cinema.
But what about videogames!? They have lost lost sight of what makes me afraid!.. Right?
Think again, friend. Amnesia, Metro 2033, Cryostasis, Grey, STALKER, I could go on but I won't, even if the mainstream seemingly loses it's grip on what you may think horror is, there will always be a bastion for you. By saying videogames have lost what makes them scary you are being wrong, because to suggest that there is a formula to be followed when creating horror is a stupid thing to do.
Videogames have their own defining moments just as cinema and literature before them, the one that will always stick with me (and I'm sure many of you guys) is the radio in Silent Hill 2, the moment that little fucker comes alive and blares what sounds like Bumblebee getting an enema at you,you crap yourself, and then you realise the fog isn't probably down to the weather.
And just as iconic is the killing of the first zombie in Resident Evil 4. Remember your first encounter with that Splicer that hides behind a coffin in Bioshock, I fucking do. Or your first glimpse of a Big Daddy. How about the Witch in Left 4 Dead, that's something that won't ever leave me, along with hundreds of images from Majoras Mask that have been seared into my brain. In years to come, people from this generation will point to things such as their first encounter with Slender in the woods, the first time they saw a person become a Necromorph and getting mugged by "monster closets" in Doom 3.
Just like the 80's enjoyed a terrible revival of horror films, we will enjoy a new revival of horror in the mainstream because, Dear Reader, horror never dies, it just finds a new basement to lurk in.
So the the last couple of weeks have been a pain in the rear due to that god-damn norovirus that's been taking everyone out near me, and as such I've been too run down to play many videogames. It did however give me time to think about them and some of the games that I've played or been meaning too and never got round to it, so after I'd recovered I went up into my attic and dug out my old Playstation 1 & 2 games, spent roughly a whole day trying to get EPSXE to work and then relived some of my youth through Final Fantasy 9 (I've got way too much to say about that game).
I've now got my 360 controller set up to my computer, got PCSX2 working as well and I'm ready to spend some time with some good old games.
Man it's been a long time since I thought about this game, basically you play as some long eared panda furry thing and you travel with your friend who's a turquoise floating ball and throw rip-off Waddle-Dee's around until the game ends in tragedy. Seriously it's awesome, I won't spoil it but it was the first game to make me cry. If you're a fan of old school platformers and want something cute with some actual depth in places I highly suggest checking it out, to my knowledge they made a version for the Wii and a sequel that I haven't played yet.
This was the first game I ever played for the PS2, a friend of mine got his a couple of months after the console was released and this one game alone was pretty much the deciding factor in the family getting one for me and my brother as a joint birthday present. The game's a pretty standard Zelda-esque adventure but coupled with a kind of city-building mechanic and an adorable style. Basically the story revolves around everything being destroyed and you having the power to rebuild it, you enter dungeons to find the pieces to each city and you can swap between Toan (the main character), a cat-lady, a fat kid, a hot chick and other characters as you go on to fight a fat purple genie and a Nazi wannabe. This is probably my favorite PS2 game (although it has to go up against SH2, RE4 and other stiff competition). It too has a sequel (Dark Chronicle) which I've never played but looks awesome.
Oddworld :Abe's Oddyssee
Any of you guys remember Demo 1?
Oh yes, I do. It was a disk of demos that came with the original Playstation, it had Soul Blade, Overboard, Hercules, Rage Racer and other classics. It also came with Abe's Oddyssee, a game I rank alongside Majoras Mask for disturbing me when I was young. It was an awesome platformer but god-damn difficult, it took me a while to finish and I then immediately saved my pocket money and went out to buy Abe's Exodus. I heard there's an HD remake and Oddworld Inhabitants are planning to do something with the franchise that doesn't suck. But there Facebook page is the least informative thing ever. I want more Scrab Cakes!
Tomba! if you're American was another game I experienced through demo's but unlike Abe's Oddyssee I never had the chance to buy this one, and with Whoopee Camp going bust copies are upwards of £100 on eBay. I may have to find an Iso for this one or invest in a Vita because I loved this game. I've lost count of the amount of times I played the demo but I can't wait to have this spiky-pink-haired bastard running around in his green shorts again! (no homo)
I love G-Darius and I want the world to know that I love giant, lazer spitting, fish shaped space ships with buzz-saw razor hands.
Side scrolling shoot 'em ups are a genre I usually stay well away from but G-Darius is my exception, it's so much fun and taking over enemy ships to gain powers makes me happy. I strongly recommend checking this game out!
As a side note, MASSIVE thanks to PhilKen Sebben (I LOVE Harvey Birdman) for the tip on Don't Starve (god I love Klei Entertainment!)
It's probably a good thing I've got all these games to play, it'll give me plenty of time to download all the games I bought in Steams ludicrous holiday sales (THQ collection for £20!?). Of course I'm probably also going to play Silent Hill 2 again whilst I wait for Shadow of the Colossus to arrive (maybe 3 and 4 also). At least they'll keep me from buying new games so I can save to pay off my car tax, insurance and other important things that are due soon. OH FOR FU-
Happy New Year dear readers, I hope you all had a wonderful night and here's to a fantastic 2013!
For those interested (HA!) here's my top 5 games of 2012, Yippee!
5. Spec Ops: The Line
Yager Development this year showed that shooters can be more than just power fantasies with "badass" patriots gunning down foreign threats and making it home with just enough characterization for the Medal of Honor or whatever. Spec Ops is a fairly inoffensive 3rd person shooter at heart but where it excels it's writing; being a gripping "war is hell" drama, exploring mature themes and going against what we've all come to expect is breath of fresh air that we all needed. Well done Walt Williams, well done Sir!
4. Mark of the Ninja
Klei Entertainment are rapidly becoming one of my favorites and they really hit a home run for me here, combining some of my favorite gameplay elements with a wonderful art style and some frankly brilliant animation. The writing and story aren't going to win any awards any time soon and sometimes the controlling/mechanics take a dive but sometimes it's good just to have something genuinely fun to play and nice to look at.
2D Sidescroller? - I love it
Ninjas? - I love it
Stealthing missions? - I love it!
3. Borderlands 2
What is there to be said about Borderlands 2 that hasn't been said already. It's genuinely funny, plays well, has some retardedly brilliant characters, looks an absolute dream and is better than it's predecessor. I had a lot of fun with the original Borderlands and like a truly good sequel, Borderlands 2 has improved in almost every way and for that I love it, if Borderlands 3 keeps the trend going I may well end up in a fun induced coma.
Bethesda take a bow, their ludicrously wonderful fantasy adventure Skyrim was easily my Game of the Year 2011 and this year they are the publisher of Dishonored. Beautifully stylized, very well written and with some genuinely brilliant characters and moments within the game Dishonored really captured my imagination and damn near stole my heart. If they'd included a way of switching to third person for the platforming/free-running sections a la AssCreed this game would be perfect. Arkane Studios now has my undivided attention.
1. The Walking Dead
Because really what else could it have been?
When I picked up Dishonored I was 100% sure it was my game of the year, until I got into The Walking Dead.This game is beautiful in every sense, every character is well defined and has their own special place in my heart. I'm sure everyone who's play TWD will agree that it is truly a force to be reckoned with and is a new benchmark for the videogame industry and art in general.
I'm really struggling for ways to describe the brilliance of this game, The Walking Dead is beyond words, all I can say is that if you haven't played it yet, do it, now. Telltale Games, you did well kid.
Well it's that time of the year, New Years Eve, so here's another arbitrary list of some videogames that some chump did and didn't like playing.
Anyhow, I'm going to get drunk and play videogames, so without further ado; in order of offensiveness:
5. Halo 4
Halo has been by far and away my favorite shooter series since the first one released back in 2001, I found the sci-fi setting interesting, the gameplay tolerable and the story bearable and overall Bungie did a great job. However, Microsoft got a hold on the IP and 343i homogenized the franchise, cut campaign time down to a substandard level and ripped the multiplayer from other, more competent franchises, essentially making it "CoD with aliens" but shit. Luckily Sgt. Johnson was killed off before 343i could get there dirty grabbers on him.
4. Silent Hill HD Collection
Konami proves that it's just as out of touch with gaming as ever by doing the unthinkable and ruining what is considered the best survival horror game ever. With ludicrous voice acting, the removal of the scarybollocks fog (aka the reason I couldn't walk home from a friends house after playing the game and I slept on his floor like a babygirl) and dirty muddy contrasting that makes the game look like a wet hessian sack full of poo and failure.
Ok, here's where I'm going to have to defend myself.
At only $2 on the Steam store and from humble indie beginnings, having Home on this list at all is probably going to be seen as the most evil thing I have ever done, but deal with it. Home is a "survivalhorrorexperience thing" that comes from small time indie dev Ben Rivers, it's a short experience where you walk a lot and that's about it. Like the narrator from Bastion the endings aren't as smart as they lead you to believe, I will say that the atmosphere is superb but that's the only praise this game is getting.
Compared to Jasper Byrne's similar looking but far superior Lone Survivor, Home looks terrible and makes me wish I'd donated those $2 to panda's or some shit instead. Benjamin, I am disappoint.
The above face is probably enough to let you know what I think about this steaming pile of wreckage. Amy is by far the most repulsive survival horror game that I have ever had the misfortune to play, and no not in the good way. What's truly terrifying about Amy is that it exists and has probably made a profit, some fairly interesting audio gets lost under a torrent of bad PS2 era graphics, shitty aesthetic, buggy gameplay, some of the worst controlling I've ever dealt with, items and characters phasing in and out of the nether, and the most spastic AI that gets pinned on the fact the titular character is autistic, nice try VectorCell you dirty French bastards.
1. Family Guy Back to the Multiverse
Family Guy Back to the Multiverse can go fuck itself with a rusty coat hook.
It's shitty gameplay, offensive nature, retarded story, ugly visuals and controls that are at best as good as Amy's make me angry and the fact it got nominated for an Annie award makes me sick.
The game is downright offensive, making homophobic and racist comments with no punchline. Seth McFarlene and his writers should really be kissing their families goodbye (if they haven't left them for this shit load of fuck) and planning a life of charity work, because that's the only way that they can pay back humanity for their crimes against intelligence. I'm embarrassed by the fact that this game exists, for those of you that want to experience this load of shit I suggest getting a copy of The Simpsons Hit and Run, smacking your head against a wall a couple of times and stopping gameplay every 15 minutes to shout "blackie", "queer" or any other choice slurs you can think of.