The Game Pile is where I review video games. Starting sometime in January 2013, the Game Pile games are games I own.
I don’t use any numeric score system for games, because I firmly believe they are (in brief) really stupid. These reviews have swears in them, and I doubt you have a problem with that. My aim with reviews is to to try and convey some of the emotional experience of playing the games, and to express ideas the games bring to my mind.
Sometimes a game will merit further discussion, with spoilers, and those are ‘Deeper in the Pile’ posts.
I have had Diablo III for some years now – years! – and literally never played it after the initial release. A friend bought it for me, a beloved friend, a dear friend, and it was a birthday gift, a special edition with fancy extra bits and all sorts of wonderful, wonderful intentions behind it, and I just didn’t play it. I didn’t play it because it didn’t feel like Diablo 2 to me, it didn’t have my Druid, it didn’t work. Also there’s few things as irritating as playing alongside people who Care A Great Deal about doing things in a particular way that you don’t really mind or care about.
Well, this week – well, not this week, a few weeks ago because I write in advance but the magic of scheduling – I randomly got a hair to try it out. I don’t honestly know why – perhaps someone mentiond it to me or I overheard something about the necromancer class or whatever. Whatever. I went down to the devil’s larder and I busted out some magnificently stinky Blizzard cheese.
Now this wasn’t something I expected; a really good limited-interface horror game.
Stories Untold is a game that positions itself as firmly being about the 1980s, but about the technology of that era. It also relies on a creeping, uncomfortable sense of horror, a sense of unease that builds. You have to know that it’s going some place bad, but the knowing ahead of time doesn’t alleviate the tension, and the game does its best to put you under pressure by tugging your focus in multiple directions.
That said, this is a horror game, and it does deal with interface problems, feelings of isolation, confusion and memory checking across difficult, uncomfortable designs. I cannot remember anything I’d call a jump scare, but the game is definitely creepy, and there’s a point where lightning flashes and startles you.
If you want to experience the game in as pure a state as possible, and simply know whether or not I think it’s good or recommend it, then this is where you want to check out. The game is available at Humble, Good Old Games, and Steam, it is very good, and it is cheap enough that if you give it a shot and don’t like it, you’re not losing much.
If you’ve never heard of Day of The Tentacle, let me give you the summary of why you should want to play it. Day of the Tentacle is a drive-in-horror movie where the world is saved by embarassingly incompetent screwballs who solve problems with rube goldberg solutions to sometimes extremely simple problems.
We’re doing something a little bit different today.
While, yes indeed, we are going to Game Pile about a game, we’re going to talk about 1995’s Discworld, a point and click adventure game originally developed by Teeny Weeny Games for Psygnosis, based on the fantasy novel universe of Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. This isn’t a game you can buy – but it is a game you can just have, if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t mind setting up a copy of Dosbox and maybe throwing a few dollars to Abandonia in thanks for their time and effort archiving videogames.
At this point in games’ history, the CD Rom is new, voice acting is just becoming widespread, and the point-and-click is in something of a golden era, because the interfaces are getting better, resolutions larger, and storage space for background graphics are even more diverse, allowing for absolutely sprawling games with an enormous variety of locations and a chance to show some truly wonderful splendour off.
Basically, this game existed at an intersection; it was an era of hand-drawn background art, voice acting on the rise, and before 3d technology pushed us into the new uncanny valley of box-kite people yammering at people, and the delightful tech-orientation of people like Sir Terry Pratchett and his friend Douglas Adams meant that the idea of making a Discworld point-and-click adventure game could happen at all. Continue reading →
Let it never be said I fail to strike when the iron is gone. Remember how a few years ago there was that fuss about the kickstarter for Broken Age, a point-and-click adventure game that would Bring Back the point-and-clickers of the 90s, which were…
The thing is that time period of games isn’t some preserved bubble of media that lives back then and never extended. The point-and-click adventure game never went away, it just stopped being so high profile people were paying $120 for big box releases. The point-and-click genre kept moving, the tools became more available, and with it, we saw more and different approaches to storytelling. It stopped being the spoofy work of the Space Quest franchise, the storybook fantasy of Kings Quest, the high-cinematic weirdness of the Lucasarts franchises.
As it grew and it spread, we got to see stuff like this, The Samaritan Paradox, which I can only describe as an example of, say, European Cinema as an aesthetic in a point-and-click adventure game. So let’s all don our berets and smoke our clovey cigarettes as we delve into the thoughtful, cryptic differently structured work of The Samaritan Paradox.
In October 2015, a new Transformers Videogame hit the shelves and it read like the kind of thing a fan would have made up – a full-scale brawler game, modelled on the classic G1 aesthetic, rendered in tight cell-shaded styles and delivered to us courtesy of the minds behind such classics as Vanquish and Bayonetta: Platinum Games. It had a frightfully short hype cycle, too – it was announced in June 2015, and launched less than three full months later.
So what came of this? Did the game actually deliver on its incredibly strange, moment-in-time development? Was it a cheap cash-in on a license that was in the news? Was this just another attempt to mine our nostalgia?
Okay, let’s clear up something I didn’t know when I bought this game. It’s not a visual novel, that vague term we use to describe a particular style of game with some choices and narrative, a sort of light, eroge-heritage RPG storytelling game. World End Economica is a kinetic novel, a strictly linear progression of text and images.
This makes reviewing it slightly challenging, because the argument about whether or not it is a game is an interesting one academically and unhelpful indeed socially. As it is, World End Economica is such a singularly focused experience, telling you that it’s technically a game isn’t a super helpful recommendation. As it’s such a pure narrative with a primary form of reading, it seems to me best to talk about the game as a story with a particularly interesting delivery method.
With that in mind, it’s a tiny bit of a deviance here; while this is definitely a Game Pile post, it’s definitely going to be reviewing this as more of a book or a movie than if I was going to recommend it as a game. Will that make a huge difference? Well, probably not. Anyway! Continue reading →