Cool video right? I bought Dead Island because I thought it would be a quick mindless zombie killer game…kind of like Left 4 Dead. Since I had recently played games that required my attention, killing zombies seemed like a fun way to pass time without exercising any brain cells. I was wrong. Dead Island turned into a lengthy campaign of survival and zombie smashing brutality complete with an open-world environment, main missions, and enough side quests to keep busy for quite some time. Though this may sound appealing on the surface, and it was, Dead Island was not free from frustration, glitches, and a slow frame rate. Overall, it wasn’t enough to keep me from finishing the game, but frustrating it was. I did lose interest in trying to complete all of the side quests and eventually finished the game. This isn’t starting off with fireworks, but it does get a little better.
It’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty…my top five favorite videogames of all-time. Coming up with a best 25 was hard to do since I have been twiddling my joystick for quite some time now…since Atari – get your minds out of the gutter! I can bet with quite certainty that some of my favorite games are long forgotten and left off this list, but for the sake of picking 25 games I looked at the ensemble of consoles and PC games I played over the years. I think I captured the breadth of my favorite games across a spectrum of genres. To put them in order was another task all-together since each game provided a different experience at a different point in my life. So, I would place less emphasis on where the game is on my list and pay more attention to the fact that it made my list at all. Of all the games I played in my life narrowing my favorites down to 25 speaks volumes of the game’s impact on me. Enough rambling, let’s get on with my final five!
5. Resident Evil (Generic) – Multi-Console
Do you think that 23 Resident Evil games (including remakes) have watered down the franchise? I think so. Despite what the game has evolved to over the years, several of these games provided countless hours of horror & fun over three consoles: Xbox 360, Playstation, and Nintendo Gamecube. The games that entertained my psyche are Resident Evil, Resident Evil: Director’s Cut, Resident Evil 2, Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, Code Veronica, Resident Evil Zero, Resident Evil 4, Resident Evil 5, Operation Raccoon City, and Resident Evil 6. Though, I have to admit the latest of these games since RE5 have been lackluster and disappointing, I keep playing them for some reason.
It was early on that I found horror gaming fun. I remember playing that first Resident Evil game in a room full of grown men jumping when dogs would crash through windows and zombies would come out of nowhere about to make that fatal bite. The puzzles could be seriously challenging at times especially on Code Veronica. The suspense was fantastic and the story was pretty deep even for the time…1996 for the first release. The voice acting was a bit weak in those days, but overall it provided a unique and fun gaming experience. It was probably the first time where the player would sit and watch a story play out with the characters on scene. By now we are all pretty much desensitized to these kinds of games and it’s harder to become scared though some games still do it well. Resident Evil has morphed into more of a Call of Duty meets zombies and for that reason the game is more action based and much less suspenseful. Also, the creators seem to think that by making the big boss as big as possible is somehow supposed to impress us. I once heard bigger is not necessarily better. Perhaps the creators should not try so hard to make a final boss so big. I keep hoping the franchise will return to horror and puzzle solving vs. fast-action shooter style. Nevertheless, for what the game did for me in those early years warrant a high placement on my all-time list despite the fall of a great gaming experience in recent years.
After doing several “best of” lists centered on music, it’s time to turn attention to my favorite videogames. Coming up with a best 25 was hard to do since I have been twiddling my joystick for quite some time now…since Atari – get your minds out of the gutter! I can bet with quite certainty that some of my favorite games are long forgotten and left off this list, but for the sake of picking 25 games I looked at the ensemble of consoles and PC games I played over the years. I think I captured the breadth of my favorite games across a spectrum of genres. To put them in order was another task all-together since each game provided a different experience at a different point in my life. So, I would place less emphasis on where the game is on my list and pay more attention to the fact that it made my list at all. Of all the games I played in my life narrowing my favorites down to 25 speaks volumes of the game’s impact on me. Enough rambling, let’s get on with the list!
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.
Can the maker repair what he makes?
By now, video games have reached a point where questioning religion, society, war, and other difficult and taboo subject matter have found their way into the subject matter. Dig deep into the lore of games like Portal 2, Bioshock, Limbo, El Shaddai, Deus Ex, Spec Ops: The Line, Metal Gear Solid, etc. and you will find deep and introspective ‘mature’ subject matter. I applaud games like this for giving the medium a much need push forward, and when a game comes out that tackles these type of themes I make it a point to play it. When I first caught wind of Primordia through the Steam Greenlight feature the concept of a post-apocalyptic world where man had become extinct and robots and androids lived on to create their own society where some had began to worship their makers, man, had really piqued my attention. Then quickly seeing it was being co-produced by one of my favorite adventure game publishers, Wadjet Eye (Gemini Rue, The Blackwell Series, Resonance), and newcomers Wormwood Studios, I knew I had to get my hands on this game. Did Wadjet continue their amazing track record, are Wormwood Studios a worthy new dev. team, did Primordia live up to my lofty expectation of delivering quality gameplay as well as a narrative that would tickle my brain? Read on. (note: I’m trying a different style to my game reviews and am now going to add a score at the end :gasp!:, hope you dig it)
Exploring through a mountain turned dungeon staring at the same tile-set on the walls for hours on end may sound like something that would make for a dull and tedious game. Especially when the game limits you movement capabilities to a square-based grid and tosses environmental puzzles your way that could be easily solved if you could stand at a diagonal position. Then there’s the odd dial-a-spell magic system and unclear narrative that come off as clumsy. But somehow, Legend of Grimrock, developed by Finnish studio (seriously, is there anything the Finns can’t do?) Almost Human, have taken all of these bad design troupes and used them in a way that makes the game a highly memorable, and more importantly, deeply engaging game experience that should not be missed.
If you are familiar with old-school first person PC RPGs like Eye of the Beholder, than you should know exactly what you’re getting into here, so you can stop reading and just go play the game and get full satisfaction. For others, in Legend of Grimrock, everything is based on square tiles, the map, movement, puzzles, etc. Even your adventuring party is square; a group of 4 that your design yourself whom are all chained together, have been charged with a crime and cast into a mountain cum dungeon, Mt. Grimrock. Your task is to escape the mountain, and if you do so, your crimes will be absolved.
Every year it seems like video games get a bit more polish and shine…sometimes. It started with the sports games. Every year the rosters got updated, the graphics a little shinier (hopefully), and game play tweaked just in time for whatever sports season was about to begin. I fall prey to baseball every year. Many other non-sports games followed suit and now we have sequel upon sequel released on an annual basis to the point where new original games are the rarity. The Need for Speed (NFS) franchise is no stranger to wash, rinse, and repeat. The 18th in the franchise, Need for Speed: The Run is just another racer, but this one comes with a twist unlike any other NFS game. Instead of racing on the underground circuit, running from the cops, or tearing up an imaginary city, Need for Speed: The Run, uses real cities with a clear objective; race from San Francisco to New York in order to cash in and break away from the mob bosses that “own” you.