Bullet-hells. Shmups. Bloody impossible. Whatever you want to call them, there’s no doubt that the genre formed around throwing buckets of bullets at people like some overzealous member of the NRA has garnered quite the cult following. And while it’s not a genre that I frequently dive into, it has nonetheless provided me with some fantastically intense experiences. Sine Mora EX is an utterly exquisite story-driven shmup, while Astebreed (a title I played years ago but never reviewed) dives down the anime mech rabbit hole in fine laser-slinging form. So, when I found a copy of Solid Aether sitting in my inbox, looking like the much-beloved (by me at least) OVIVO had a baby soaked in shmup hormones…aaand this analogy is getting out of control. THE GAME LOOKED COOL, OKAY?!?
“Edutainment” is a term that’s gotten a bad rap over time, conjuring up memories of Mario Teaches Typing, Carmen Sandiego, and even the dreaded Mavis Beacon titles. However, the genre has evolved recently, to the point where the gameplay component is frequently fleshed out and enjoyable, rather than being a mere afterthought. Take a title like Mulaka, which exists as both an educational piece and a highly entertaining video game. Developers are realizing that – to keep people engaged with the game’s subject matter – they have to keep them interested in the game. Plus, even if the inclusion of so much gameplay (the horror!) results in some topics being omitted, getting a taste of a new subject in an exciting atmosphere can whet one’s appetite for knowledge, leading to further research and learning being done outside of the context of the game.
The first time I played through Journey, I cried. It was – without a doubt – one of the most emotionally moving gaming experiences I had had up to that point, and it’s held a special place in my heart ever since. However, when I mentioned to my friend Matt that it might find its way onto my “favourite games of all time” list, he made an interesting remark: “Have you replayed it?”
On paper, Assault Gunners HD seems like the perfect game for me. Featuring a deep customisation system, fast-paced mech combat, and the Dynasty Warriors-esque satisfaction of mowing through hordes of opponents at the drop of a hat, it’s pretty much my personal power fantasy come to life.
Here comes the “but”.
“Walking simulators” have become a notoriously divisive genre over the years, garnering both love for their way of telling an interactive story, and criticism for the general lack of purpose said interaction tends to involve. Branching off this, I like to consider Debris a “swimming simulator”; sure, you have the added ability to move vertically, but the gameplay still very much consists of, “Keep moving forward while being fed assorted storytelling bits”. This is by no means a bad thing, as ABZÛ – one of my favourite games in recent memory – arguably also falls into this category. Unfortunately, whereas ABZÛ was a consistently wondrous experience that left me practically begging for more, Debris is…well, we’ll get into that.
The final episodes of Telltale games are always interesting, because they’re simultaneously a culmination of everything that’s led to that point, and go against the whole premise of the game. How can choices really matter when it’s all going to be over in an hour or two? Sure, it’s possible to make some decisions in the interim, but they tend to feel more cosmetic than anything. As a result, the big question for episode five of Minecraft: Story Mode Season Two is simple: was it worth it?
To call Telltale’s Guardians of the Galaxy series a rollercoaster ride is an understatement. Unfortunately, rather than playing with emotions and tugging at heartstrings like many of their other titles, Guardians has regularly flipped between being pretty good and painfully average. Of course, that places even more pressure on the final episode to not fall into the traps of mediocrity that have plagued the series. The question is: is that even possible at this point?
The dreaded Sunshine Institute was no match for the Order of the Stone in the last episode, and they managed to escape with a new cohort in tow. As it happens, Xara – the new addition – is one of three legendary admins; the other two are Fred, who’s gone missing, and Romeo, who’s been the one terrorizing the group all along. Xara is willing to lead the group to a portal to the surface, but (as they are wont to do) things quickly become more complicated. When faced with giant Endermen, magma golems, and – horror of horrors – trivia contests, will Jesse and her friends make it out, or will they be trapped Below the Bedrock?
Right now, you are reading this on a screen. Be it on a computer, phone, or tablet, you’re staring into a black mirror while information is fed into your mind. What else have you done today? Have you checked Facebook or Twitter? Updated your Tinder profile? Maybe Snapchatted some friends? Regardless, a piece of you has been made public in some way, whether you intended it to be or not. When all of those pieces are assembled, who do people see? Is it the real you, laying bare the depths of your mind and soul? Unlikely. It’s a shallow facsimile of your flesh and blood self. It’s a calculated, perfect image that you’ve crafted by accentuating your strengths and satirizing your weaknesses. There’s nothing wrong with that; everyone does it. However, doesn’t it make your human form seem… inferior?
Okay, stop me if you’ve heard this one. You’re a battery-powered assassin equipped with a laser, setting out to take down a gang of miscreants whose unifying feature seems to be that they all wear devil ski masks and are led by Satan. Satan himself is the head of some corporation that apparently deals in ritual animal sacrifice, mind control, and hot dog manufacturing. With this in mind, your goal is to sabotage their bases of operations, all while rescuing monkeys and virgin goats, collecting dolls, and sprinting around like it’s a game of Unreal Tournament.