“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.
I’ve been hinting and casually mentioning it for a while, so it’s time to come clean: I got a full-time job. For those of you who are curious, it’s a software engineering position at Getty Images! Like, the stock photo company?
Yeah, I’m, like, kind of a big deal now.
“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.
To say that Black Mirror is the video game equivalent of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room feels like it may be a slightly overexaggerated claim. And yet, I’m hard-pressed to think of another recent title that created such utter hilarity out of situations that were meant to be dramatic and horrifying. Scenes that tried to focus on familial interactions and supernatural occurrences had me snickering at technical missteps. An intense scene of someone getting stabbed in the neck did little more than make me laugh hysterically. Thankfully, this meant that it wasn’t an experience devoid of enjoyment, and yet it’s still far and away from being a good game in any capacity.
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?
Pulling off good horror with pixel art is difficult. Titles like Lone Survivor come to mind as somewhat recent examples of pixelated horror done right, but such games are far from the household names that Outlast, Amnesia, and even Slender have become. Part of the reason for that may be that it’s difficult to properly set up jump scares when playing from what is generally a pulled-out, third-person view; giving the player so much vision can undercut the effectiveness of such surprises. To combat this, many “bit horror” games choose the same tactic chosen by The Count Lucanor: the horror comes from the imagery and circumstances rather than their sudden presentation.
Five years is a long time in the world of gaming.
Five years ago, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 only existed as prototypes. Games like Dishonored, The Walking Dead, and Hotline Miami were considered new IPs. Half Life 3… well, people were a bit more optimistic about its existence.
Amidst all of this, the first two episodes of The Dream Machine slipped onto PC. At the time, it probably seemed impossible that it would take until 2017 for the story to reach its conclusion, yet here we are. Somehow, it managed to avoid the encroaching grasp of development hell and emerged as a beautiful head-trip of a game.
Video games have explored countless horror film tropes over the years: abandoned hospitals, possessed toys, and ghoulish monsters, just to name a few. Such games have, for the most part, taken themselves completely seriously, sometimes to their detriment. There’s been a drought of games that capture the spirit of schlocky, B-movie slasher films like The Evil Dead and Grindhouse. Slayaway Camp aims to fill this void with an interesting combination: the typically fast-paced thrills of the genre mixed with the methodical pacing of a puzzle game.
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.
Well, it’s officially 2017 around the world. The start of a new year. Which means that everyone’s looking back on the last year and going, “Well that was a bit toss, wasn’t it?” That is, except for the people who are taking the opportunity to look back at their fond memories from the year past, namely when it comes to video games. There were countless fantastic games that got released last year, so many of which I desperately wanted to try out. Unfortunately, as a university student, there are two things that I severely lack in: money and time. As a result, it is incredibly common that I have to watch as new releases are hyped, released, and enjoyed by the masses, while waiting patiently for the day that they inevitably go on sale and I actually have the time to sit down with them. Some of these games have been sitting in my library for months, awaiting their eventual installation. Others are on my wishlist, hoping to one day be added to my ever-growing backlog. Whatever the case, these are (in no particular order) the games that I wish I had gotten to in 2016. You can also consider this to be a “To play in 2017” list, if that’s your thing. Either way, you’ve probably all already played all of these and think I’m a pleb for not looking at them yet.