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.
Generally, when one game adapts ideas from another, it will expand on them. It will add variations and extra wrinkles to the gameplay that were impossible when the original game came out. Sometimes, it will even throw in entirely new ideas that profoundly change the way the core mechanics work. I therefore find it interesting to see a game like Refunct, which seems to draw inspiration from an assortment of free-running games, but particularly Mirror’s Edge. Now, Mirror’s Edge is a game that I played through quite a while ago, but I remember that some of my biggest problems with it were just how big it was. The levels were large and complex, often requiring complex sequences of actions to traverse effectively. There was a lengthy story mode, which meant that some missions felt padded with unnecessary combat sections and other irritating set pieces. It was a good game at its core, but there was just too much of it. Then there’s Refunct, which strips away all the complexity and leaves only the bare necessities. While this scaled-back approach may seem counterproductive at first, I feel that it actually elevates Refunct to be a far more enjoyable experience.
Appearances can be deceiving, and this is certainly the case with So Many Me. Despite its cartoonish appearance and cast of cute and cuddly characters, what lies beneath the surface is a truly difficult, occasionally maddening puzzle-platformer. As an adorable green jelly blob named Filo, you suddenly find yourself in a world requiring saving; you know how these things go. Luckily, he quickly comes across a small green egg that hatches into a duplicate of him. Discovering that the clone mimics his every move, Filo sets out on his journey, discovering new clones (the “Me”), interesting powers, and an assortment of enemies along the way.
Where does one start with a game like The Architect? In all honesty, sitting down to write this review is just giving me traumatic flashbacks to the displeasure that was this game. I wish I had something witty or insightful to say about it, but nothing’s really coming to mind. The music’s okay…I guess? At least, it would be, if there was more than a handful of compositions available. What I’m trying to say is that this could get messy. The unfortunate thing is that this is my first time doing an “official” review, where I was actually provided a key by someone promoting the game. If this is a sign of things to come…oh boy.
After a long, tiring day, sometimes it’s nice to sit down with something simple; something that doesn’t involve lots of complicated mechanics.
Luckily, a number of these games have emerged over the last few years, many of them cropping up in the mobile space.
Looking at the vast catalog of such games, it is clear that one of the more common types is that of the endless runner, and it’s in this genre that Pony Island finds itself.
Minimalism is a popular concept in video games. One of the most commonly-used forms is in minimalistic art styles; many indie games in particular often opt for a clean, simple look to make their user interfaces and gameplay screens uncluttered and easy to understand. However, minimalism can also be applied to other aspects of a game, such as the narrative or even the gameplay mechanics. In some cases, this can lead to phenomenal results. Take the various games that Telltale has made over the last few years; the player’s opportunities for interaction are typically limited to following button prompts, yet the rich narrative carries the experience. Instead of picking and choosing, though, Antenna opts for minimalism in basically every aspect. That’s not to say that it feels cheap or cobbled together; this is not some shovelware that was just thrown up on Steam Greenlight one day and left to die. However, there’s also very little to grasp onto when it comes to doing a proper analysis of it.
The video gaming industry can be a fascinating place full of continuously changing focuses. Case in point: Volume, a dystopian-themed sneak-‘em-up, comes courtesy of a studio whose last game was a platformer whose emotional story was told through an assortment of colourful rectangles. I think it’s safe to say that there’s a bit of a shift present; iterative follow-up project, this is not. However, that’s by no means a bad thing, and Volume serves as an excellent example of how trying new things can yield thoroughly impressive results.
Short games present an interesting conundrum. On one hand, they tell a brief, concise story that can generally be experienced in one or two sittings without overstaying its welcome. On the other, they provide significantly less time for the player to actually get invested in the game, whether it’s the story, characters, or gameplay. In some games, this can work well; games like Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist immediately come to mind. However, others can feel like they’re over before they’ve even really begun; sorry, I don’t have some perfectly relevant example for this off the top of my head. Interestingly, though, Message Quest manages to fall somewhere in between, feeling like it’s both over too quickly and not soon enough.
PRICE is a game that started out with so much promise. It caught my eye on the Steam store for two reasons: its nicely realized anime aesthetic, and its low price of free. I figured that that was more than enough reason to dive into it, and I was initially very pleased with it. The opening cinematic in particular really drew me in with its haunting vocals and dramatic instrumentation. I highly recommend that you check it out if you’re into the whole “dark and mysterious anime opening” thing. Unfortunately, that’s the only part of the game I can really recommend looking at, as I found much of the rest of it to be a tiresome, frustrating chore to play.