Hi, I'm 17 years old and live in England, outside London. I grew up in India, and grew up in PC gaming (as well as handheld Nintendo consoles) thanks to my older brother. The games I have fondest memories of were Worms, Counter Strike, Mortal Kombat and Pokemon. And Super Mario 64.
“Antichamber is a psychological exploration puzzle game set within an Escher-like world. It’s a world where the rules don’t follow the same physical rules as other games would or our own world would.” -Alexander Bruce
When the example he gives is a “non-euclidian four-dimensional space”, you know you’re in for something really special. And it was, for the first hour, and here's why.
Antichamber is set in a unique and striking world in which you explore for the sake of exploration, which is something that’s really rare. These days, exploration usually means exploring to find a power-up, or to find all the collectibles, but in this case, I actually found myself exploring the world because it was worth exploring in and of itself.
It works better as an exploration game
And I think the game provides the best exploration within the first hour, when you have none of the devices which you pick up later on (once you get these you get into a more traditional puzzle game mindset rather than an exploration mindset) to use in many puzzles involving different colored cubes. To me, the game works better as an exploration game than a puzzle game - it’s harder to freely explore the world when puzzles act as blocks to the exploration.
In the first hour, before “the game proper” starts, Antichamber is just acclimatizing you to the nature of the world, to the strangeness and beauty of both the juxtaposition of color and pallidity and the truly amazing level design. It shows you the world, and lets you observe anything and everything at your own pace (which is something I hope Jonathan Blow’s The Witness does too), and rather than guiding you down a linear path it lets you go your own way. Granted, there are limited paths to take, unlike an open outdoor space, but it still offers a unique location and space everywhere you go - at least for the first hour, the introduction to the world.
After a few hours, the game and more than that, the puzzles itself often get boring, repetitive and tedious. You see, it’s in this first hour where you’re not interrupted by puzzles and you’re just set free to roam and explore to your heart’s desire.
A gallery of sorts
One of the first locations you arrive at is a small room, a gallery of sorts, where there are cubes set in a grid-like pattern. To get to this location, you walk down a corridor, and from a short distance you can only see one side of a cube, with the letters L I F E appearing every time a pendulum ticks by the center. As you walk towards it, the space opens up to you, showing many of these cubes, all containing unique and colorful 3D images, such as electrons flying around a nucleus or sets of rocks orbiting a large central rock and being orbited by mini-rocks of its own.
The amazing thing is that depending on which side you view each cube from, you see a different “sculpture”. And I use the word “sculpture” loosely, because what you see varies from a globe spinning to a game of Pong being played to a cube floating in space surrounded by block arrows pointing at it from all directions. This seemingly simple scene not only illustrates the kind of mentality that Antichamber provides, but also shows the player that this sort of beauty can only be achieved in a videogame. Simple pictures or video can’t capture the ability to walk around in a fantastical space and observe everything as you please.
I wholeheartedly recommend the game to anyone who's even a little interested, because this sort of game needs to be experienced firsthand. I give the first hour of the game an unequivocal 10/10, and think that it's worth it for that amazing hour alone. And if you've played Antichamber, what did you think?
[Minor spoilers, specifically the first paragraph after the third picture.]
I recently finished playing Assassin's Creed III, so I thought I would write about my impressions of the game. Please note that this isn't a review per se, but rather certain things that I wanted to mention in greater detail than others.
Let's start on a positive note, shall we? Although much of the first half of the game is pretty boring, and as you may have heard, feels like your hand is being held (the game has a glorified tutorial as the prologue character, then when you first play as Connor, once Connor is a young adult, and even once he becomes an assassin), the game really becomes brilliant and opens up at Sequence 6 or 7 (of 12). For example, one of the last missions in Sequence 7 requires you to assassinate this Redcoat commander in the middle of a heavily guarded and patrolled camp. Although this mission could easily be accomplished by simply rushing in, killing every guard on site, and shoving your hidden blade through the target, the game offers "optional objectives", which encourage a much more stealthy play style. The optional objectives, which give "full synchronization", were to kill no more than three regular guards and to air assassinate the commander without being detected. It really encouraged me to think more before I killed him, and although it took me considerably longer to complete the mission, it was really rewarding, as each time I died, I learned from my mistake, observing certain patrol routes and knowing exactly when to hide and when to pounce. It was especially rewarding (and ironic), as to air assassinate him you must leap from atop a Union Jack flag.
Furthermore, I can only imagine, as I am not American, the feeling of epic that many of you had in such moments as replacing a UK flag with The Stars and Stripes, seen for the first time in the game, atop the mast of a ship, before Connor does his iconic Leap of Faith. Moments like this replicate the feeling of liberty and freedom.
One of the brilliant parts of the game was the freedom in the frontier - just running around, hunting and exploring, tree-climbing, which is fantastic, and even finding a camp fire, sitting down with “Frontiersmen”, and stumbling upon a little side quest, such as investigating a haunted lighthouse, or as is the case with “The Hunting Society”, tracking and killing a famous Black Bear, rare Bobcat or mystical deer. Hunting is pretty fun in and of itself, but after a while gets boring, as you are just shooting your bow-and-arrow, leaving bait and snares or air assassinating wildlife. At first it feels awesome, and it is pretty rewarding to stalk a deer for a little while before pouncing on it from above, but the main purpose of it is for resources, which grants you money.
This brings me to crafting, which is a system that lets you use resources from hunting and from purchasing from residents of the Homestead to make consumables, such as arrows, poison darts, smoke bombs, bait, snare etc. This is pretty pointless, as you can just go hunting, find any merchant, and sell all the fangs, claws, teeth, skin, hide and hearts so you can buy new weapons. I ended up hunting for around 2 hours halfway through the game, as I was doing a “Hunting Challenge” (which surmounts to killing animals in various ways) set by the aforementioned Hunting Society, and sold all the goods for around £6000, which afforded me new weapons, as well as the lovely Charleston Assassin Uniform (unfortunately it doesn't appear in cutscenes).
Still, the exploration was done very well, as stumbling upon Frontiersmen/Hunting society/Homestead missions were fairly exciting and rewarding.
Again, I'm sure you've heard that Connor's personality can be described as ‘a bit grumpy’ throughout the game, and that his lines are delivered dryly in cutscenes; this is only made worse by the fact that the prologue character is far more charismatic and interesting. It's a real shame that the more charismatic playable character has the worse gameplay, due to it being the beginning of the game, so it's still in 'handcuff mode', and as Connor has the superior and exciting new skillset - tree-climbing, the use of a bow-and-arrow, and hunting. In fact, some of the best parts of the game are when the game has stopped becoming condescending, and the prologue character is reintroduced as an NPC in the main narrative.
Away from the story, and now to a very specific problem I had, which was the weapon wheel. Switching weapons and tools is horribly designed - it takes 2-3 seconds for the wheel to come up, due to a transition screen, rather than just having an instant wheel over the gameplay, as it did in previous entries. This may sound like me nitpicking (nitpicking would be the number of bugs, such as falling through the map), but this issue wastes time, and generally discourages players from using various tools and experimenting with them. Due to this, I didn't discover the 'horse whistle' tool until halfway through the game, although I must say, the horse whistle is an incredibly useful tool to cross the vast Frontier.
The large wheel is from Brotherhood, and the smaller one is the new weapon wheel.
One of the biggest problems with the game is that it doesn't start until around 5 hours after it "starts", but once it does properly start, the game is excellent, and if you're patient, is definitely worth it.
[Major spoilers for all episodes of the Walking Dead]
People always go on about the storytelling ability of adventure games, that they are loved so much for their capabilities to tell wonderful stories and present deep characters. I never really got that. I completely agree with Craig D. Adams (Superbrothers - Sword & Sworcery) when he said that traditional adventure game mechanics - inventory puzzles, for example - don't hold up, as they are blocks that interrupt the storytelling. What I do think adventure games are great for are describing or setting otherworldly places - I still fondly remember places such as Blood Island from Monkey Island 3, all the Voodoo Lady Swamps (OH MY GOD THAT MUSIC) or even places from recent games, such as the Crossroads from Episode 5 of Tales of Monkey Island. But, onto the topic of this entry - The Walking Dead. How this game pulled my heartstrings. How it toyed with my feelings. I can't remember the last time I was touched this much by something of interactive entertainment, let alone by an adventure game. Yes, The Walking Dead knows how to tell a story.
If I was going to talk about the whole game, this would be far too long, so I'm going to focus on my favourite moment, the ending. Everything came together so very perfectly. It all starts with that conversation in that hotel room. Never in the game had there been such an eerily silent and tense conversation. I sat in my room, the glow of the monitor on my face, slowly tapping A, B, Y. And then it all breaks out. I quickly find myself choking the man who kidnapped Clementine, and although he did something terrible, after hearing his story, I sympathise with him, and as the game has taught me over 5 harrowing episodes, I decide not to kill him and try and spare him. That doesn't turn out well for me, but I hear a gunshot, and find Clementine's hand shaking, as smoke rises from the chamber of the pistol. I immediately thought 'Like Father like Daughter'.
You see, back in Episode 1, when all but one was alive, when Clementine asked me about the man I was convicted for killing, and whether he was alive or dead (a zombie) when I killed him, I replied, "It's complicated" - I never thought she truly understood why I did what I did, and the morality of it, but after seeing her killing the man, I (Lee) had never felt closer with her. It was brutal, and frankly just depressing, to see the innocence of this happy child slowly break down, to a point where she is forced to apply zombie guts on her clothes, bash a walker in the head with a baseball bat (while seeing blood spray on her face), shoot someone she loves, and escape a city full of walkers.
And man, what a character. Throughout the game I found myself caring for her, and making every decision based on her well-being. I have never cared for a character in a video game to such a degree, and Telltale have done a truly astounding job of making me feel as if I'm in the game, and that I am Lee, and creating a child character who isn't simply there for the ride, slowing me down, or just a straight pain in the arse.
During the last scene before the credits, I found myself shaking as the scene played on, thinking about how everyone was dead, and it, in the end, came down to Clem and I, and arguably more importantly, Clementine. Lee sat against the wall, incredibly sick, one-armed, ready to turn, as Clementine picked up the gun. She hesitates, and after that brief and heartfelt conversation, with the camera focused on her face, I, trembling, hear the loud bang, flash, as the room around me lights up for a moment, before the screen cuts to black.
Oh, what an experience. And once the beautiful credits song began I teared up, shaken, exhausted, shocked, and more than anything, touched.
The glimmer of hope afterwards though, that's what gave me closure. Seeing that Clementine had made it, and finding Christa and Omid (I hope), I was able to move on. Still, after it all ended, I walked around my house for around ten minutes, thinking about what had just happened. I was dazed; I lied down and I slowly calmed down, my body physically relaxing from the world I had lived in for the past week, and the characters that I had interacted with and taken care of.
Indie games don't often get heavy marketing. Word of mouth is usually the largest way for Indie games to garner financial success. A game like The Witness deserves and will most likely get such success. This is primarily because it's being designed by Indie game guru Jonathon Blow. For those of you that don't already know, Mr. Blow designed XBLA (and now Steam and PSN) game Braid (which Destructoid, and specifically, reverendanthony, seem to absolutely love), a time-manipulation based platformer which boasts stunning visuals, a brilliant soundtrack, clever puzzles and an enigmatic yet thematic narrative.
I loved braid. And I'm going to love The Witness. In fact, if GTA V isn't released this year, I’m certain The Witness will be my game of the year.
Well, that’s enough about Blow and Braid. Witness is an exploration-based puzzle game set on a fully-3D beautiful uninhabited island. When Blow created the game, he designed the puzzles first and kept the buildings and/or areas the puzzles were in very primitive, often just as placeholders until a further point in development when he would know what to do with it. From the beginning he didn’t just want the island to be a setting for puzzles, but rather a rich island with deep stories waiting to be told. Because of this, Blow has hired two architectural firms, FOURM design (for buildings and such), and David Fletcher Studio (for landscape architecture), to help create an island that feels genuine with a history to each area and building.
And all this architectural work is completely relevant to the main story - the detail to the island will reflect the many times civilizations has been at that island, embodying their various philosophies and beliefs. This way, backstory of the game can be presented non-verbally, imbued into the architecture and landscape of the world. Different styles on the island may represent different inhabitants; Blow essentially hired architects so that the island feels deeper and so that it would be brought alive. He says, "the game is constructed so that the more you pay attention to tiny details during your travels, the more insight you will have to the central story".
The Keep, before and after the architects' work.
The only criticism with Braid was it’s short length; I thought the game’s value was so high that the length really wasn’t a problem. However, Blow has said that The Witness will be three to four times the size of Braid. He believes in to-the-point puzzles, so don’t worry, the game won’t be full of filler material.
One of the reasons The Witness caught my eye is because of it’s similarity with Myst, or at least as far as I remember. I was very young, too young, to have remembered what Myst was about at all. I do although have vague memories of Myst, as this was one of the first games that my dad played after the arcade days. I remember watching my older brother, cousin and dad play through the game, and even now, if I look through the garage, I’d be able to find a notepad full of scribbling; a mix of numbers, diagrams and words - notes for the many hard puzzles that Myst had.
Knowing Braid, I'm sure the game will be incredibly atmospheric with a great soundtrack. The art, as you can see from the screenshots, are brilliant. It's a colourful, deep, rich world that looks great, as far as Indie or retail games go.
For those of you that don't already know what Mother 3 is, it's a JRPG that was released for the GBA in 2006. It has only ever been released in Japan, but if it is ever released on the 3DS eShop, that'd be the day that I (finally) buy Nintendo's latest handheld console. It wasn't released outside Japan for two main reasons: Earthbound (Mother 2)'s poor sales in the west, and that the game was released a year and a half after the Nintendo DS was released in the US (15 months in Europe), which meant sales would be fairly poor, as all the attention had been shifted to the DS.
For some odd reason, I have all 552 blank Mother 3 maps on my computer
One thing that intrigued me about Mother 3 are the mature themes that are present in the game. The main plot is about an army from a different time coming to the protagonists' innocent, simple, and colourful world and transforming it into a commercialist, mechanised world. The game presents themes of corruption, brainwashing, dysfunction, and destruction, as well as evoking emotions of rage, sorrow, guilt, and love through the brilliant writing of Shigesato Itoi. At one moment, the game will have you chuckling to yourself at its iconic tongue and cheek humour, and at others, will have you crying over the deep meaningful stories. Personally, I was astounded at the games' themes, given that it's a Nintendo game.
One particular scene that had me arrested, less than an hour into the game, was when Flint, a primary character, is consumed by rage, lashes out on innocent townfolk, and put in jail, all in front of his two young children. Their family is torn apart by a devastating loss, and this very-realistic reaction is something that affected me. It was all brilliantly written, and it wasn't just the writing that did it. It was the timing. After the horrifying news is told to Flint, the music (or rather, the sounds of the forest and the fire) cuts, a lightning strikes, and Flint's sorrow turns into rage, as he starts pounding the ground with his fist, lashing out, all in front of his two young boys, with the perfectly fitting "Gentle Rain" now playing in the background. This scene (spoiler) comes together in perfect harmony, delivering a touching start to the wonderful world of the Nowhere Islands.
The game itself is very quirky and surreal, as you'll find yourself fighting enemies such as a Candle, a Carpet Monster, a Balding Eagle, a Baked Yammonster, a Dung Beetle, a Naughty Mushroom, a Really Flying Mouse, and a variety of musical instruments. You get the idea. Although they may be flat on screen, the characters feel real and three-dimensional, with actual motives and feelings. That said, the sprite-work really is brilliant; the game has some of the most pleasing-to-look-at graphics, 2D or 3D, boasting wonderful watercolour-esque 16-bit graphics.
Mother 3 is laid out in several chapters, and these chapters are told from various characters' points of view. The multiple playable characters not only give different gameplay styles, but it gives a spin on events, creating a new found perspective on previous seemingly insignificant events. The multiple perspectives intertwine to create a richer, more dynamic narrative. You may be surprised at how a game with such simple sprite-based graphics can make a great story-telling experience. There's a 3 year leap between two of the chapters, and on the other side, a lot has changed to the world, including a new monetary system in place for the first time (creating a heavily consumerist society, from one where everything was free), a railway, a club (Club Titiboo) in the north, and the happy boxes being put into people's homes as an act to brainwash them. Above all, Lucas, Flint's son, is more grown up, and is now ready to take on the world.
The music plays a big part in the whole Mother 3 package, and I can (almost) guarantee you that anyone who has played the game would agree that the game would not be the same if not for the brilliantly masterful music, composed by Shogo Sakai, who is known for other games such as Virtua Fighter 2 and Super Smash Bros. Melee. It really is a magical experience, and the various meticulously crafted melodies reflect the various events and things in the strange world of Mother 3.
Since the game has a little more of a modern setting, instead of spells, swords, and bow and arrows, you'll be using thief tools, psychic powers, and baseball bats. And the combat isn't your typical JRPG affair, as there is a rhythm based element involved - there are several different battle themes, for various sets of enemies. If the player is able repeatedly tap A to the beat of the song playing after the initial attack selection, one would be able to rack up higher combos and deal additional damage, which really helps, as this game is considerably hard in some areas. Possibly my favourite boss-battle in the game is against Mr. Passion, a ghost classical composer, in Castle Osohe. The battle is accompanied by wonderful classical music, and this battle was the first time that I was able to keep with the beat and successfully rack up a great combo, which feels exhilarating the first time you pull it off.
You can enjoy the magical experience of Mother 3 (using an emulator) by downloading a ROM (or acquiring it through legal means) and applying the fan translation found here. The fans of this cult classic continue to amaze me; the dedication put forth is astounding. A fan-game, Mother 4, is in the works, and is shaping out to be quite excellent, as it retains the quirky humour that is iconic of the previous entries in this series.