Episode One: Remastered

Episode One: Remastered

 

Episode 17

Alan & Craig return with a revamped website, renewed vision and a new look at remastered games

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(A 77-minute new beginning)

The Spark

The Spark

Sparks Fronter

Writers write, or so I read. In my case writer’s write only when a deadline approaches. The occasional writer with no deadline creeping closer toward them could go well over a year since their last jarring film review which reveals more about the fractured psyche of the writer than anything about the film itself.

Honestly though I’ve never seen myself as a writer. Read more →

Dead Space 3

Dead Space 3

ds3_1

Bro, how much can you bench?

Dead Space 3 chilled me to my core. Though I was never scared while playing. No, the paralysing dread hit one year later while driving alone at night on a desolate stretch of Scottish countryside, the moonlight casting doubt over the bends in the road ahead, when I was horrified to realise Dead Space 3 was basically Diablo. Read more →

The Screenies 2013

The Screenies 2013

They’re back.

How do you write about the best games of the year when you haven’t played them all – or you didn’t buy any? That’s easy: you just write about your favourites. These are ours. Welcome to the fourth annual Screenies!

After last year’s globe-trotting, special effects-laden video feature, we’ve had to work with a limited graphic design budget for this year’s awards. We’ve still done a great job of conveying the prestige and impeccable quality of The Screenies.


Worst decision of the year

Craig: The most disappointing moment of the year occurs several times in The Cave, the adventure game from Ron Gilbert working alongside Tim Schafer’s Double Fine. Considering the calibre of creative minds it’s difficult to comprehend how The Cave is so poorly structured.

screenies-cave

You pick three explorers from a choice of seven (first problem- we’ll get to this later) to usher through a magical cave that grants their deepest wishes in the evil genie way and not the blue, pop-culture spouting friendly genie way. The cave has a voice which makes a lot of bad jokes which I think were purposefully meant to be bad so on that front that’s a success I suppose.

Each explorer has a unique level to solve with generic levels interlarded throughout to form the award winningly dreadful structure:

 

The_Cave_Structure

 

Playing all seven unique levels (blue boxes) therefore requires three separate playthroughs due to only shepherding three of the seven characters in a single playthrough. All those generic white boxes are hence visited three times with the final jaunt repeating two of the unique levels to boot.

The Cave is an adventure game of the puzzle solving variety. Static puzzles, in general, do not improve the second or third time they are solved. Unique levels do not become more unique upon their second viewing.

With the exception of the Time Traveller’s Museum which used a novel time-shifting mechanic to really interesting and fun effect, every other puzzle is grindingly mediocre. Repeated they become offensively so.

The three character concept was meant to bring balance to the Force adventure game, not destroy it. Independent characters elegantly bypasses the typical traipsing back and forth across locations and load screens in order to flip a switch way over there to open the door way over here.

Sadly however the trio of explorers are rarely deployed other than to hold switches (locking them in position) or to hold down a pressure plate (again locking them in position). Might as well have had to crates for companions with funny hats. Paint a heart on the side of them and boom we’re partying like it’s 2008.

But then as a final jab in the eyes, The Cave has a good and bad ending hidden in the final Gift Shop Reprise which involves disobeying an implied order three times or not. I only realised this because an achievement flashed up proclaiming I had “failed”.

Achieving the good ending for me then would involve playing the entire game, with multiple repeating levels for three times, for a second time. I just don’t have the time to waste on a game so hell-bent on wasting mine.

 

 


 

screenies-indie

Alan: 2013 was the year when ‘indie’ ceased to mean anything. Like in the music industry, indie used to be the mark of a product without a mainstream publisher, but Steam Greenlight and phone app stores make this an increasing irrelevance. Are you still an indie if you’ve raised a million dollars on Kickstarter? Are Double Fine the Green Day of the games industry? As usual, I am a lot more interested in games than dull semantics.

Depression Quest is a game that places you inside the mind of someone suffering from depression. Its power comes from its subversion of the videogame’s idea of choice and agency: what conveys the reality of the illness better than striking out options in a selection window so that you’re aware of them, but they remain unavailable to you?

The fizzing static and Isaac Schankler’s subtle soundtrack put you into a state of mental fuzziness and unease, where every difficult decision leads to dreading another difficult decision. It’s not fun; it’s exhausting. It’s an education. It’s a great use of Twine besides hyperlink-riddled poetry. While no one game could cover the totality of depression, Depression Quest convincingly portrays some of it, and that is a worthwhile endeavour.

Depression Quest is free to play on the website, but I paid for it and you should too.

 

 


 

Most stylish game of the year

Craig: I studied Physics with Music at university. As a degree it was nonsense to the extent it doesn’t exist anymore. But for me it was both left- and right-brain bliss. This year Antichamber brought a similar head-buzzing euphoria.

While Q.U.B.E. (reviewed here) walked in the shadow of Portal and Quantum Conundrum tripped itself trying to replicate Portal, Antichamber is a first person puzzler that surpasses Portal in creating an intricate, impossible world that delights at each nonsensical turn. Its playfulness in tricking the senses with non-Euclidean structures and lateral puzzle solving is so expertly judged.  The Stanley Parable (early mod review here) plays a similar trick but in a purposefully brash and a loud mouthed style.

Style. That’s the word. Antichamber is the most stylish game of the year.

Sparse white walls splashed with vibrant, bright colours alternating between crisp natural soundscapes and an ambient moodscape that builds. It’s a work of digital art.

I’m using very effusive language, I know, but I’m happy to do so because the game itself is so understated. I’ll let you search for a gameplay video yourself, and instead I’ll throw up a comparison to French magician Yann Frisch’s take on the classic cups and balls. It’s the same wordless magic I found in Antichamber.

 


 

iPhone game of the year

Alan: Ridiculous Fishing is “a tale of redemption”, but that has two meanings. The game’s story is The Old Man and The Sea with rocket launchers, but there’s also the behind-the-scenes story of Vlambeer’s redemption, detailed in this article at Polygon. It’s great to see Ridiculous Fishing finally released, but even better that it’s a great game.

It’s really three games in one: your lure paradoxically avoids every fish on the way down, thrusting down to catch the most exotic fish, but once one takes the bait it becomes a battle to collect as many as possible before your rod reaches the surface, spilling your catch into the air, and Billy whips out a shotgun to blast them apart for cash. Each new fishing hole brings increasingly preposterous fish and weapons until your lure spits saw blades and has a toaster dangling from the line to avoid accidental bicatch.

In a year when microtransactions ruined console games such as Forza Motorsport 5 just like they’ve tarnished mobile, it’s great to see developers who still believe in the purity of a game as a finished and uncomprised work. Ridiculous Fishing provides the best of all mobile games: an endless game that can be completed; unlockable equipment unburdened by microtransactions; a game that’s as long as the Mariana Trench yet short enough to play on the toilet.

 


 

iPad game of the year

Alan:868-HACK is really special, but I couldn’t for the life of me tell you why,” writes Brendan Keogh in issue #5 of Five out of Ten. Michael Brough’s hacking roguelike/procedural death labyrinth is simple to describe – it’s a computer grid gauntlet populated with viruses that a player must overcome through strategy and guile – but somehow inscrutable. It’s not enough to unthinkingly dash through each room, as you’ll be eliminated by a daemon or glitch in seconds. You must continually ask yourself: what’s going on here? Why am I dead? Again?

I came to appreciate procedural death labyrinths a little more this year. Derek Yu’s Spelunky has a similar goal to 868-HACK: to force a player to learn its systems, rather than relying on luck or muscle memory. Procedural generation allows for a different kind of skill than the games of old. Rather than learning patterns of platforms, we must now learn patterns of behaviour. Rather than the linear corridors of a first person shooter’s campaign, think of the unpredictable arenas of multiplayer.

868-HACK

The learning curve is steep, but the rewards are sweet. Yet completing 868-HACK is not the same as mastering it, as each new game unlocks different programs to utilise in strategies. For everything you figure out, there’s something new to learn. If you were alienated by Brough’s bizarre puzzler Corrypt, this is much more worthy of your time. It is clever and compelling, even when you are wiped out for the fifth time in a row.

868-HACK is really special, but I couldn’t for the life of me tell you why.

 


Craig's 'Best Game of Last Year of the Year' Award

Craig: The nice thing about reviewing a game a year after its release is that all the obvious points have already been made. Hopefully.

I imagine in other reviews – on other sites admittedly so banish that thought from your mind for the time being – you’ll find many, many words expounding on XCOM’s cleanly designed interface and smooth introduction of tactical elements. It sits wonderfully alongside Civilisation IV in the “Just One More Go” brainwashing cult.

The reason why I enjoyed it so much will now be written in small font in order to save myself some self-respect: XCOM makes me feel like a badass.

XCOM

It’s shameful really. It’s wholly generic sci-fi: generic invading aliens against Earth’s secret (and generic) military organisation.

I shouldn’t get as pumped up picking my squad (I blame the music), I shouldn’t devote so much time naming them (I blame myself for writing family trees) and I shouldn’t then become so attached to my alpha team that I’ll repeat missions not because I failed them but because I know I could do better.

My alpha team could do better and that soft, acrylic Earth deserved better.

In short it’s a turn-based tactical squaddy shooter and it’s totally badass.

 


screenies-runnerup

Alan: Animal Crossing: New Leaf offers a holiday any time you want. Escape from the banality of your daily grind to a town filled with friendship and fishing, where money grows on trees and dinosaur fossils are buried in the soil. A place where the only jobs are the ones we concoct for ourselves, where materialism is so rampant that it loses all meaning. If the ultimate aim of The Sims is to create an exaggerated microcosm of life, then Animal Crossing aims for utopia instead.

After years of iterative sequels that didn’t add much to the Animal Crossing formula, New Leaf’s title can be taken literally. It feels like the way the game was always meant to be, with the online connectivity and sheer portability of the 3DS providing a holiday destination you can share with your friends and carry in your pocket. It takes advantage of the 3DS’s Streetpass and online functionality to bring a world of villages together in a way its DS and Gamecube predecessors never could.

Unlike The Sims, time in Animal Crossing passes in your absence. You’re a mayor, not a god, and the game gives back only to those who will put in the hours. That’s why it is so essential that the game is on a handheld console: untethered from a TV, free to pause at any time by closing the 3DS, you can visit your village whenever you like rather than whenever you’re in the living room and have two free hours.

I haven’t played New Leaf since Pokémon X was released, but I hope to return to Oinktown soon. In a remarkable year for the 3DS, when its status shifted from ‘compelling’ to ‘essential’, New Leaf is a standout title.


Game of the Year

Alan: At the inaugural Screenies, I made a mistake. I voted with my head for Mass Effect 2 as Game of the Year, but my heart belonged to Bayonetta. Voting head over heart is disingenuous; the games that truly matter are the ones that capture our hearts. You need to use both! There has been a change in thinking recently, where ‘Game of the Year’ lists have been populated with indie releases like Gone Home that are more meaningful than merely technically impressive (I loved Gone Home, it just didn’t make this shortlist).

So it’s time to vote with both my head and heart this time: my Game of the Year for 2013 is Spelunky.

“Wait a minute! That game came out in 2012!” I hear you cry. While Spelunky was originally released for free a few years ago, and its HD remaster reached the Xbox 360 last year, it’s only with its appearance on the PC, PS3 and Vita that Spelunky’s true brilliance was revealed – for me, at least.

Spelunky is a hard game. It’s not uncommon to die on the first stage, even with twenty hours of experience under your belt. I died 167 times on the PC version before defeating Olmec, and I’ve never faced him again. While it’s possible to learn your way through the game with trial and a lot of error, it’s more enjoyable and much quicker to learn through Lets Play videos. That’s where the Daily Challenge comes in.

spelunkyice-cavesmothership

2013 was the year of the ‘indie’, but also the year of the broadcast. Streaming services like Twitch became more popular than ever. It’s no coincidence that the PlayStation 4 has streaming functionality built-in: every game can be watched by someone else, every personal moment can be shared online until it is utterly impersonal. An endless sea of digital memories, shared to everyone, mattering to no one.

Spelunky’s Daily Challenge, however, gives meaning to random streaming – and meaning to the game’s innate randomness. Every day, all players get one attempt at the same level. Once the Spelunky Explorers Club was founded, dedicated to sharing YouTube replays of Daily Challenges, things got really interesting. Players narrated their strategies as they played. I’d watch a couple and then see if I could avoid the mistakes of others. You were able to share in the same drama and challenges as other players without feeling like you’d had an unlucky roll of the die (no pun intended), because you’d seen them achieve what seemed impossible. It was fitting that when I first saw Olmec sink into the lava without the macroblocking artifacts of YouTube, it was on a Daily Challenge level.

Like 868-HACK, Spelunky is a game about systems. It’s a perfect balance of equipment, enemies and generated levels that lends itself to wonder and head-shaking hilarity. It’s often cruel, and has a wicked sense of humour, but is rarely unfair – Spelunky aficionados use the term YASD, for ‘Yet Another Stupid Death’, and after a few games you’ll understand why. Like chess, you need to think a few moves ahead to anticipate the reactions of monsters and traps. It’s not possible to predict everything, even if you’re a Spelunky grandmaster, but there’s a consistent logic to it. It wouldn’t really work unless it was a masterpiece of algorithms, rules and variables. Not all of these are explicitly quantified: you just know they’re in place, holding the universe together.

Twenty hours of play later, the City of Gold is still undiscovered; and in the bowels of Hell, King Yama’s Throne is unconquered. I’m still playing Spelunky. I should probably play something else.

The heart wants what the heart wants.


Relive the glory of years gone by:

The Screenies 2012 (video feature)
The Screenies 2011
The Screenies 2010

The World’s End

The World’s End

Now that I’ve Sobered Up…

Dec 16, 2014: I’ve had 507 days since publishing this pseudo-review to mull over The World’s End and I’ve finally pin-pointed the exact reason why the film failed for me: Complete lack of motive.

Why are the gang continuing with this stupid pub crawl in the middle of an alien attack? Why is Nick Frost’s character continuing to be with Simon Pegg’s asshole character? Why is this film just not clicking for me?

The World’s End lacked a killer idea. Browsing Netflix the other night I stumbled upon the very killer idea in another movie:

Grabbers

Genius! The gang must keep drinking to keep their blood-alcohol level high enough to not be detected by the aliens. The gang must stick together because there’s alien imposters everywhere.

Now I haven’t watched Grabbers mainly because I’ve got what I needed to make this a proper review. I’ll just pretend that the blood-alcohol detection is a key plot point explained by Nick Frost in the same way that I pretend Cloverfield is a prequel to Pacific Rim.

Finally. Resolution.

This film remains the worst of the Cornetto Trilogy.


 Time Gentlemen, Please.

Jul 27, 2013: Flashback to the gang’s legendary pub crawl in Newton Haven starting in the First Post and ending in the World’s End. Repetition establishes that this is an important event in the life of the Simon Pegg character. Simon Pegg character sets up goal to reunite old gang and repeat the pub crawl, culminating finally in the World’s End.

TITLE CARD: The World’s End

Simon Pegg character meets Eddie Marsan character who is a middle aged man in a business. Simon Pegg character repeats old story of the gang’s pub crawl and extends invitation to join the old gang’s attempt at repeating the legendary pub crawl. Eddie Marsan character asks about Nick Frost character. Eddie Marsan character reluctantly agrees to join.

Simon Pegg character meets Martin Freeman character who is a middle aged man in a business. Simon Pegg character repeats old story of the gang’s pub crawl and extends invitation to join the old gang’s attempt at repeating the legendary pub crawl. Martin Freeman character asks about Nick Frost character. Martin Freeman character reluctantly agrees to join.

Simon Pegg character meets Paddy Considine character who is a middle aged man in a business. Simon Pegg character repeats old story of the gang’s pub crawl and extends invitation to join the old gang’s attempt at repeating the legendary pub crawl. Paddy Considine character asks about Nick Frost character. Paddy Considine character  reluctantly agrees to join.

Simon Pegg character meets Nick Frost character who is a middle aged man in a business. Simon Pegg character repeats old story of the gang’s pub crawl and extends invitation to join the old gang’s attempt at repeating the legendary pub crawl. Nick Frost character asks about Nick Frost character’s past. Nick Frost character declines but later reluctantly agrees to join.

The old gang begin their legendary pub crawl. Jokes in pub. Drinks in pub. Move to next pub. Jokes in pub. Drinks in pub. Move to next pub.

Suggestion of sinister plot. Introduction of sinister plot through fight scene accompanied by driving music and onscreen visual effects. Jokes in pub. Drinks in pub. Move to next pub.

fight fight fight swish camera driving music fight fight fight swish camera driving music fight fight fight swish camera driving music fight fight fight swish camera driving music fight fight fight swish camera driving music fight fight fight swish camera driving music fight fight fight swish camera driving music jokes in pub drinks in pub move to next pub fight fight fight swish camera driving music fight fight fight swish camera driving music fight fight fight swish camera driving music  exposition fight fight fight swish camera driving music fight fight fight swish camera driving music fight fight fight swish camera driving music fight fight fight swish camera driving music fight fight fight swish camera driving music fight fight fight swish camera driving music fight fight fight swish camera driving music fight fight fight swish camera driving music  loads of enemies loads of enemies loads of enemies loads of enemies loads of enemies loads of enemies loads of enemies loads of enemies loads of enemies loads of enemies loads of enemies loads of enemies death of character no one cares loads of enemies jokes in pub drinks in pub move to next pub loads of enemies loads of enemies running running running running running running running loads of enemies loads of enemies loads of enemies loads of enemies loads of enemies loads of enemies loads of enemies loads of enemies loads of enemies loads of enemies loads of enemies character development loads of enemies loads of enemies loads of enemies loads of enemies loads of enemies loads of enemies loads of enemies running running jokes in pub drinks in pub move to next pub running running running running running running fight fight fight throwaway romance swish camera driving music fight fight fight swish camera driving music fight fight fight swish camera driving music fight fight fight swish camera driving music  exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition jokes in pub drinks in pub move to next pub exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition pathetic attempt at character exploration exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition a mint Cornetto wrapper is seen briefly on screen and audience applaudes at old memories of repeated jokes of legendary films exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition exposition of ending.

Man of Steel

Man of Steel

Coming out of retirement.

There’s a secret review hidden within Man of Steel itself. It takes place in the scene where Superman is staring back in wonder as a fuel explosion ripples up the side of a building, the flames lighting the shards of glass and casting shadows across the splintered concrete, when all of a sudden General Zod runs up and punches Superman right in the side of the head.

Superman is played by me, the spectacle plays itself and General Zod is played by the idiot screenplay. Read more →

The Talking Dead

The Talking Dead

Episode 16

Alan & Craig perform a complete audio autopsy on The 2012 Screenie Game of the Year winner The Walking Dead. Then they take an axe to its head

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(A 42-minute reanimated corpse with 38.9Mb of brains)

The Screenies 2012

The Screenies 2012

Alice: Madness Returns

Alice: Madness Returns

fronter

“Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop”.

I respected American McGee before playing any of his games. My introduction was probably the same as yours: a weird name that appeared before weird games such as American McGee’s Alice, American McGee Presents: Bad Day L.A. and American McGee’s Grimm.

My formal introduction came during his interview on an episode of GFW Radio (listen here). I was charmed. He discusses his id software past, Shanghai-based Spicy Horse present and the then future work of episodic Grimm, a game by his own admission that puts Art and Story before Gameplay.

I went in to Alice: Madness Returns wanting to like it. And indeed there is much to like and a handful of moments to love.

The opening section is more Wizard of Oz than Alice in Wonderland. We open with Alice – poor demented girl – in Rutledge Asylum presumably incarcerated for her fantastical tales of tea parties gone awry. London is grey with soot and filth milling about town running their errands. Bulbous faces and contorted bodies, these Victorian peasants have more character than some of the story’s major players.

And then, just like Dorothy, Alice is stolen from the monochrome city and catapulted into a Technicolor Wonderland.

The richness of this first Wonderland encounter comes from bold, bright colours and bold, bright ideas: Giant marbles are in fact imprisoned slugs trapped in spheres; blossomed lilies gesture you inward before gobbling you up; Giant stone sculptures to Alice tower over with weeping waterfalls that turn crimson and gore as the damage to Wonderland, and American McGee’s signature style, is revealed.

Another moment of colour and wonder comes from the Card Castles in the Sky level. Platforms and pathways constructed from giant playing cards flying in and out of sequence in the clouds. A simple concept, set to a light, blippy soundscape, creates a sense of sky platforming that taps into memories of the red flying hat from Super Mario 64.

Sadly these moments are too brief and are lost in levels that are too long. By the time I made it to end of a chapter I was more relieved than anything else. This is particularly disappointing considering the refreshing speed with which the play mechanics are introduced in the first sections.

Now I could have regulated my own play a little better- no-one forced me to play to the end of a level. But similarly there is no guidance afforded other than “keep moving forward until you bounce out of a level and into a cutscene”. The dynamic, even when punctuated by brief flirtations with innovation, is relatively flat.

Now bouncing into a cutscene is an incentive when the story is good. For all its strong art direction Madness Returns tells a very weak story in a very drawn out fashion.

Alice is sort of rescuing Wonderland which I think is mentally linked to her well-being and every now and then we visit the death of her family in a burning house which probably reflects the burning cathedral train thing that makes the odd appearance but these audio diaries don’t seem relevant to any of that and– wait why am I staging a play underwater again?

Madness Returns‘ order is definitely Art, Gameplay and then, a long way behind, Story.

At its core there is a simple yet surprisingly engaging combat system. Basic moves and a variety of basic enemies don’t sound appealing but Spicy Horse does well to mix the combinations and conditions to keep combat entertaining. It’s undoubtedly better than Lollipop Chainsaw but it’s similarly straightforward fare. But again the combat suffers from sheer repetition required to fill those long, long levels.

Buried in a chamber and hidden off to the side in the Queen of Hearts castle is a stone carving of Raz from Psychonauts. Alice: Madness Returns is no Psychonauts. It wasn’t trying to be anything on that scale. I’m hopeful for Spicy Horse’s future though. They have potential and are building up to bigger and better things. I respect that.

The Colour of Videogames (Boxes)

The Colour of Videogames (Boxes)

The_Colours_of_Videogames_Fronter

Blue Rhymes with Orange.

The-Colours-of-Videogames

And yet another reason to love Portal.


Thirty Flights of Loving

Thirty Flights of Loving

thirtyflights

Scenes that cut.

Beginnings and ends of films are always the coolest. The middle is less so. When they take all the good bits from the middle and cut them together they call it a trailer. Trailers are cool. Often they’re better than the film.

Cool beginning + tight trailer +  trendy ending = Thirty Flights of Loving.

In many ways it’s a montage- a technique rarely deployed in videogames outside of developer Blendo Games. The cerebral cuts of a heist gone wrong play out of order elegantly shaping the play as a disorientated criminal scrambling to recover a botched mission.

What’s going on? How did this happen? What now? Just move! Move!

But as I move forward, carting the bullet-ridden corpse of my compadre, the scene flashes and changes. Another transition, another jolt. Now I’m drinking with a girl I recognise. She was trying to shoot me earlier. Another disastrous piece of the puzzle falls into place.

In a way Thirty Flights of Loving is a puzzle game. The puzzle being a narrative experienced rather than solved in any traditional sense. What’s going on? How did this happen? I’ve seen this before.

Which is why those of a more traditional disposition will dismiss Thirty Flights, as they did Dear Esther, as being another “not really a game” videogame. Their potency comes from their brevity and it’s only a matter of time and patience before the bigger boys and girls start putting montage sequences like this into bigger games.

The puzzle of the narrative and its conclusion do not provide an answer to my question: What the hell just happened to me? Instead I find myself in an art house lobby, with credits hung on the wall alongside game assets as a crowd mingles and drinks while surf rock soundtrack gently rocks.

There may very well be a solution to what the hell just happened to me. For the time being I’m cool with just chilling in the lobby. I’m still in a heady vibe from the ride.  And the ride only lasted ten minutes.

And this was well over a month ago.

ReVision Goggles

ReVision Goggles

I continue to learn all of life’s lessons through cartoons.

ReVision-Goggles-top ReVision-Goggles-V-midReVision-Goggles-V-bottom


MetaCritique: Awarding Awards

MetaCritique: Awarding Awards

Awarding Awards

It’s trendy award season.

MetaCritique4


You love it, don’t you? Here’s the interactive version:


FOR MORE METACRITIQUE GRAPHFOOLERY

MetaCritiqueVolume1


MetaCritiqueVolume2


MetaCritiqueVolume3


Papa & You

Papa & You

papandyo

Yo Low.

papaandyou

The only reason I’m writing this is because I’ve drank too much whisky and don’t want to go to Tiger Tiger.

In times like this (read as: anytime Tiger Tiger enters the night’s plan) my mind drifts to videogames. Which is still something that surprises/comforts/disgusts me with the same surprise/comfort/disgust as a lapsed alcoholic reading a wine list.

Papa & Yo. I haven’t played it but I’d like to talk about it. So I read some reviews.

From what they tell me it’s about a child and his monster friend in a parable that is actually about the lead designer’s troubled childhood dominated by his father’s alcoholism.

Then later on I learned that this is explicitly identified and explained to the player upon booting up the game. It’s like one of those throw away moments in a live gig when the band says “this song is about anal sex” before launching into a rendition of ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ (upon which you remember that your Mom’s favourite song is ‘Brown Eyed Girl’). Explanation of the artist’s intent undermines the point of writing the song in the first place and potentially tarnishes it forever more.

So I did what all tipsy nerds do: I loaded up Twitter on my phone and asked about Papa & Yo. However knowing my Twitter audience’s quiet disposition (which I choose to read as solemn respect) I played out both sides of my argument. I won, surprisingly.

It’s not art when you have to explain it. It’s not poetry when it comes with a breakdown of the structure. It’s not a cinematic masterpiece when viewed first time with director’s commentary.

Why then does Papa & Yo present the interpretation before the imagination? Is it an honest fact that the audience most likely to encounter the game might not be open enough to even register the symbolism at play? (I’ve worded that last line so to not call “mainstream gamers” idiots because I think anyone who identifies as a gamer is a moron also.)

Now the reference to alcohol which inspired this ramble is relevant for this reason: tipsy-coming-on-sober Craig is unsure of whether or not Papa & Yo includes such an explanation upfront. This might be like that ghost story I told Alan about the guys in the tent- a story peppered with realistic dressings retold so many times it becomes ingrained as truth in my mind.

I implore anyone who has played Papa & Yo to post in the comments below: Thoughts, links to your own writings or calls of derision. Whatever you want. I’d like to talk about Papa & Yo– and eventually I will play it- but I need convinced that there is depth below the surface symbolism.

Art in my mind is conveying an idea or emotion in a particular form that triumphs over the other myriad ways of explaining the point. It nails it in a way no other form even gets close to.

My otherwise useless French music tutor from university once told me “talking about music is like dancing about architecture”. Papa & Yo strikes me as a game which begins its dance by saying “this dance is about architecture”.

Please leave your comments below. And even if/when you don’t I won’t mind. I can clearly discuss such things in my head with a glass of the good stuff.

Split Scream Halloween

thehouse2

Are Alan & Craig dare enter The House 2?

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Contains strong language. Mainly from Alan. Contains girlish screams. Mainly from Craig.

Alt Fire on YouTube: http://youtu.be/60KzhPpstmw