Several games have attempted the Groundhog Day format, to varying degrees of success. What tends to be the biggest stumbling block is also what makes the premise so interesting: you’re repeating the same day over and over. From a narrative perspective, this allows the story to focus on the same events from different points of view, or see how minor changes can impact the final outcome. However, it’s a lot harder to incorporate those subtle variations into gameplay, meaning that it’s easy to find yourself going through the same actions ad nauseum, simply to get from one story beat to another.
Challenging games are a pain to review, and not just for the obvious reasons. Sure, it can be difficult (and often frustrating) to throw yourself against the same obstacle repeatedly, solely because you want to see as much of a game as possible before reviewing it. What I find to be far more stressful, however, is when that challenge becomes insurmountable. With the recent controversies surrounding games like Cuphead, the notion of saying that a game is “unfairly difficult” is frequently regarded as taboo. It’s not that the game is hard; it’s just that you need to “git gud”.
“I’m sorry, what?”
That was my first reaction upon receiving a press email about de Blob 2’s release on current-gen consoles. The inaugural title was a Wii exclusive which – while attention-grabbing to my 13-year-old mind at the time – ended up becoming little more than another bargain basement platformer in the Wii’s sea of them. Hell, I was pleasantly surprised when it got a multiplatform sequel in 2011. Yet when not a peep was heard about the franchise afterwards (following publisher THQ’s closure in 2013), I had pretty much accepted that it was all over for Blob and friends.
Myths and legends are frequently the basis for elements of games, be it their plotline, characters, setting, or some mix. However, these are usually components cherry-picked from a larger narrative, serving less as a means of introducing the audience to the original piece, and more as scaffolding to support the world created by the developers. In contrast, nearly every element of Mulaka feels like it was designed to honour and bring attention to the traditions and culture of the Tarahumara people. Yet rather than being little more than an elaborate Wikipedia page, Mulaka sucks you in with its vibrant world, and does everything it can to keep your attention until after the credits have finished rolling.
Believe it or not, the PlayStation 4 celebrated its 4th birthday last year, which meant Killzone Shadow Fall – a launch title for the console – did as well. The hype has come and gone. Guerrilla Games went on to create Horizon: Zero Dawn: a game that is not only widely considered better than Shadow Fall, but was hailed as one of the best titles of 2017. Yet here I am, writing about this practically ancient game as though anyone still cares what some pundit thinks about Shadow Fall at this point. Then again, there are still people playing its multiplayer, so obviously there’s some interest in the title. Plus, I just got a PS4, and this was one of the titles I traded my pack-in copy of Star Wars Battlefront II for. Sue me for having an urge to talk about it.
Every gaming site worth its salt needs an annual awards show, and since I actually played games that came out last year (for once), I would like to cordially welcome you to the first-ever Olive Awards!
Now, you may notice that there are some oddities. First off, some of the traditional categories like “Best Exclusive” or “Best Action/Adventure Game” are missing. The short reason? My show, my rules. The longer reason? Some of the categories simply aren’t what I consider to be particularly interesting. Plus, in a lot of cases, I only got a chance to play one or two games in a given genre this year; not much of a contest if there’s literally only one competitor, right?
Another difference is that many categories have multiple winners. This is simply because I suck at making decisions, and I’d rather acknowledge a selection of outstanding examples in a particular category than try to choose an ultimate winner. Besides, that sort of thing just tends to piss people off, so why bother?
Lastly, if the selection of games being discussed seems limited, it’s because I’m only talking about games that I played this year. Many of them I covered, though there are some exceptions. Regardless, let me just say that yes, Cuphead is bloody beautiful; yes, Super Mario Odyssey looks really freaking fun; and yes, Divinity Original Sin 2 seems like the kind of game that I could lose myself in for days. Happy? Let’s hope so, because the show starts now!
“This feels a lot like Super Mario Galaxy,” was one of my first thoughts upon starting Gears for Breakfast’s Kickstarter success story A Hat in Time. The resemblance only grew stronger as the game progressed, with everything from the art style and game mechanics to the music cues and animations harkening back to Mario’s outer space excursions. Not content to be a simple retread of familiar territory, though, A Hat in Time manages to bring in new ideas while doing an admirable job of measuring up to its acclaimed influences.
Video games have become increasingly dour over the last few years.
With a push towards more realistic environments, faces that are slowly crawling out of the uncanny valley, and the ever-popular greys and browns of most shooters, it’s easy to forget that video games were once primarily cartoony and colourful.
Thankfully, amidst the (admittedly gorgeous) vistas on display in games like Anthem and Forza Motorsport 7, several games slipped into E3 2017 that demonstrated the power of modern technology when it comes to creating imaginative, vibrant worlds. However, environment design can only get me so interested in a game; it’s what populates these locales that tends to truly make them shine. These are the games that had me clutching the sides of my face, ranting in all-caps to my friends, and trying not to squeal loud enough for my neighbours to hear, because OH MY GOSH DID YOU SEE THAT IT’S SO ADORABLE AND I NEED IT NOW!!!!!
As a storytelling medium, video games are something of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, their interactive nature has the ability to create far more visceral and engaging experiences for players. However, this also brings with it some inherent drawbacks. Budgets need to be allocated not just to production design, but also to programming, QA, and more. Bugs and glitches may spontaneously occur, sucking up massive amounts of time and energy. I bring up this comparison, because Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons stands as a prime example of both. It is hampered in many areas by the restrictions of the medium, with bugs, technical problems, and gameplay issues taking me out of the experience on a number of occasions. Despite this, it manages to feel like a near-perfect pairing of story and gameplay, where each is able to complement and enhance the other.
Fire Emblem is a series that has seen many instalments over the years, yet I feel that it’s still one that flies under the radar for most people. Certainly up until the point where I played Fire Emblem: Heroes, I always knew it as, “That fantasy turn-based tactics game that most of the sword-wielders in Smash Bros. came from”. It intrigued me, but never enough to warrant going out and buying a game. This probably wasn’t helped by the fact that many of the titles in the series have become highly sought-after commodities in recent years. Regardless, its release as a free-to-play mobile game signalled an easy (and cheap) way for me to give the series a shot.