What is it about pixel art graphic aesthetics that will forever draw me into a game? Many will argue that their usage is reaching a point of over-saturation, that their time has passed, and are just a cheap trick to prey on my generation of gamers nostalgia. Me, however, feels just the opposite. I will never get enough of pixel art graphics and with modern technology there is just so much more one can do with them. And while my nostalgia does play a part in why I enjoy their look, there are many other reasons why I find them pleasing to the eye, such as the adage that one’s mind will fill in the blanks with something more personal and more horrific and/or beautiful than the artist could ever create (see: Japanese horror flicks). In pixel art graphics, no matter how detailed they get, there is always room for me to fill in blanks and smooth out edges in my mind, therefore creating a delightful mix of what the artist intended and the brush of the artist in my mind.
Anodyne looks not only to explore this facet of gaming and art, but also asks the player to take a deeper step into not only different aspects of game design, but also into game playing and beyond. Why do we enjoy the medium, why the pleasure derived from an aesthetic, why do we all almost always perform certain actions, and why don’t many of us want to grow up. Many of these questions are aptly answered in the games title alone, but once you delve into the game and start exploring its surrealistic pixel world the introspects of the 2 man development team’s (Sean Hogan (audio, programming) and Jonathan Kittaka (art, writing) for Analgesic Productions LLC) very personal thoughts and feelings will really start encouraging you to ponder the same theories as they were. And when all is said and done and the games finale is reached you will realize that you discovered new things about yourself other than why you like video games or pixel art graphics. So, like the filling in the blanks of the visual art with your imagination, you will be filling in the questions and creating your own questions with the framework the game creates. Oh, and Anodyne is a lot of fun to play too!
A little over 5 years a little game called BioShock was released and unless you happened to be in the know, it arrived on release date with little fanfare. The lack of hustle and bustle didn’t last long until reviews started to pour out praising every aspect of the game, many even going as far as to call it the most revolutionary game to date. The game went on to become a hit seller and many gamers, myself included, found themselves prone to agree with the high praise of the press. While delivering some great FPS shooting and a neat super power system and a really great underwater city setting, the game really shined and revolutionized in the narrative department utilizing clever tricks at delivering exposition to transform a Maltese Falcon style story (oh, yeah, spoiler, but if you haven’t played it by this point, your fault) into a deep and attention grabbing sociopolitical commentary. Whether you just wanted action or something deep to analyze, it delivered on all fronts and created a bar so high it became highly questionable if a sequel could ever come close to reaching the heights that it did.
BioShock 2 saw the return to Rapture, the once utopia under the sea. Expectations were high and the hype around the development was closely monitored in the press. While finding itself underdevelopment from much of the original team, a key member was missing, lead designer Ken Levine. When the game landed it was a hit and a damn fine game that worked well at expanding the first’s universe, but it just lacked that extra pinch of inspiration and love that sent the first over the edge and it could be accredited to the absence of Levine. Fortunately Mr. Levine wasn’t just passing the reigns of his baby off to someone else while he disappeared, instead he slunk back into hiding and began almost immediately working on the game under the microscope today. And after 5 years of work and polish and an incredible amount of hype from both fans, press, and Ken Levine and Irrational Games themselves BioShock Infinite is upon us looking to not only reach the bar first set at the start of the series, but surpass it and yet again revolutionize the landscape of gaming as we know it. So, if you’ve been following the game you’ve probably already heard the unanimous praise by critics and fans and what can I say, they are all spot on. From this day forward, when you dig up the old Websters-Merriam to look up the word success you will find a picture of BioShock Infinite sitting there in all its glory.
Now building quite the resume’ of quality games, German adventure game developer Daedalic Games have crafted quite the reputation among adventure game aficionados as being the modern Lucas Arts. Games like Deponia (seriously go play that game!!!), Gemini Rue, The Dark Eye, and Edna and Harvey they have proven time and time again that they can nail gut-busting humor mixed with stark dramatic themes and engulfing narratives out of the park as well as the Lucas Arts games of the past. Their latest game Harvey’s New Eyes, their follow-up to Edna and Harvey, has recently been released to a world-wide market with its English localization and picks up the tale of mental asylum escapee Edna not to long after the events of the first game transpired. But unlike the original adventure, you no longer control Edna or explore rooms of a lively animated nut house. No, Harvey’s New Eyes puts you in the shoes of the cute-as-a-button, super shy, always a goody-two-shoes Lilli and into the Catholic convent/orphanage to which Edna has escaped and befriended the timid outcast Lilli. Her eventual adventure to aid Edna in a time of need quickly leads to one of the funniest games I’ve played all year. It also leads one of the most twisted and dark games I’ve played in years being able to match the tone of dark adventure games like I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream while still having this bright, happy, and cartoony aesthetic written all over it.
For the longest time I’ve been a fan of graphic adventure games (aka: point and click adventure games). My roots with this style of gaming goes back to the VGA games that were produced in the late 80’s/early 90’s with stuff like Kings Quest and various other Sierra games. My love (and many others) of this genre deepened when I came across the mad mind of Tim Schafer and Lucas Arts with games like Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion where they perfected the point and click formula down to a perfect ‘T’. Then graphic adventure games seemed to just fall off the map getting little to no exposure and many games falling well under my radar. One of the games to fly right under my radar is 1999’s The Longest Journey by Ragnar Tørnquist and Norwegian studio Funcom. I have heard that this game was heralded as the best graphic adventure of all time by many sites and people, but for some reason I never got around to playing it when I initially heard about it. Then Steam had their summer sale and offered a package of this game along with its sequel bundled together for a nice price, so I took the plunge to brush up on a game that I should have played years ago and boy am I happy I did.
Where do I begin explaining the sheer over-the-top, off-the-wall, bat-shit-crazy, out-of-its-mind awesomeness that is Bulletstorm. On the surface it may seem like an ultra-violent romp through a tough military guy story filled with immature cussing and dick and fart jokes. And it is, but it so, so much more. The violence finds its place weaved wonderfully into the cheesy and cliché’ narrative as well as the copious amounts of toilet humor. The game play is traditional as well as insanely innovative at the same time and it leads to some of the most fun I’ve ever had while playing a game. The graphics are some of the best I’ve seen on my Xbox so far and feature the full use of the color palette, something many game developers have forgotten was there. The set pieces are gargantuan and the action is non-stop. Simply put, every single thing about this game is absolutely amazing and you should not hesitate to play it.
” Reality is perception. Perception is subjective.”
If you were to take a quick glance at FEZ you would see a cute little retro style 2D platform game where you run around and collect stuff. If you were to play around with the demo you will discover a neat little gameplay mechanic where you rotate a 3D world and explore on a 2D plane. If you were to start actually digging into the game you’ll find clever environment puzzles you need to use the mechanic for to collect your items and treasure. If you make a bit of progress you will find some of the most challenging and unique puzzles ever crafted in a video game. If you start to dig further into the game your mind will start melting. If you make it to the end of your first playthrough you will be questioning reality and the meaning of life.
From the moment it was a mere rumor that the next entry in the Elder Scrolls series was to be released my anticipation had shot sky-high. As much as I loved its predecessor, Oblivion, there was one thing that the game was lacking that could have brought it to levels of unimaginable awesomeness, dragons. And dragons were to be the main focal point of the new game, let’s just say I got a little over-excited. And as which happens when anticipation and expectation are at such high levels, in the end things didn’t pan out as I had wished and upon completing Skyrim I was left disappointed and felt slightly cheated. Since this is one of the most popular games out there I’m not going to go into great depth with gameplay or style other than saying it is a first person hack and slash RPG with lots of exploring to do.