Netflix and Black Mirror discover the concept of FMV games, 35 years after Dragon's Lair came out.
Holds up very, very well nearly 25 years later.
Considering how influential Half-Life (1998) is, it was fun seeing it as a crossroad between modern day FPS and the Doom/Quake-style shooters that came before it. Despite a few shaky design choices here and there (crouch-jumping, some of the late game Xen levels), the ambition here absolutely is bursting at the seams, and it's a joy to play.
The environmental storytelling is great, the set-pieces are top notch and the weapons are really satisfying to use. It also varies things up as much as it can, and doesn't stick to one mood for too long (which definitely helped keep my attention); it can go from survival horror, to guns-blazing action, to an otherworldly sci-fi vibe. It keeps things fresh! And it makes for a fun, adventurous experience.
(Also, Half-Life easily clears Half-Life 2 in pretty much every relevant way, but regardless...!!!)
Cute animals + incredible music + an engaging gameplay loop + no microtransactions (just a simple, one-time purchase) = one of the best game I've played all year
If you told me that PETA was a psyop specifically made to make environmental activists look bad, and you used this game as an example, I would find it very believable.
The odd thing about Kitten Squad is that it’s arguably the least obvious, upfront game PETA has ever made. If it wasn’t for the exploitative and gratuitously long use of a story about an Orca dying in captivity near the start of the game, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was just some aggressively mediocre Binding of Isaac clone with an ugly, cheap-looking art-style.
It arguably makes this game even more baffling that usual, since unlike PETA’s previous attempts at sensationalist video games, Kitten Squad almost disguises itself as something other than what it is, which makes me more than a bit suspicious about what their true motives for this game really were. (Not that they were super trustworthy in the first place, but shrug)
That Orca story, unsurprisingly for PETA, is clearly used, not so much to truly make people sympathize with the plight of mistreated Orcas, but to instead draw attention to the organization itself, seemingly using this genuinely heartbreaking story for pure shock-value. Typical. Disgusting, but unfortunately very typical of them.
In spite of my own major reservations for a few specific scenes re: Atlus’ treatment of certain characters, I nevertheless had a fantastic time playing Persona 4 Golden, and it remains one of my favourite experiences playing an RPG ever.
The murder mystery storyline is tied together incredibly well, and the main cast is very, very likeable. I’m a major stickler for great character interactions in media, and this game has that in spades. They genuinely felt like a real friend group, and the camaraderie they had with each other made me want to root for them even more to solve the mystery.
P4G is the game that introduced me to Shin Megami Tensei’s monster-collecting & fighting mechanics, which – as a once-major Pokémon fan – I found very appealing. And while I have my own nitpicks about not being able to have more than 2 time slots to increase stats or level up ranks with other characters (or to go fishing, which I consider a highly underrated mechanic), the rest of the game was so engaging to me that I’m mostly able to overlook this.
All of the above factors together combined made this game a major time-sink for me, and it got me invested, not just in Persona & the SMT franchise, but in exploring more JRPGs as a whole, and as someone that didn’t have a huge amount of interest in them until that point, I consider that an achievement.
I truly wish I understood what so many people see in Half-Life 2.
I can't tell if this is just my own fatigue with the Source engine, but everything about this game just feels stale and tired. Maybe this is a "you had to be there" thing, where it's impact was more apparent at the time than it is now, but I can still think of a fair number of other FPS games released in the early 2000s (many of them being before HL2's release) that I've had a lot more fun and/or investment in than this one.
Even compared just to Valve's other works - particularly the original Half-Life before it, and the Portal games after it - Half-Life 2 just falls completely flat for me.
Wish I felt differently, but shrug
There's something oddly mesmerizing about Yars' Revenge. Trying to describe what makes it appealing in words alone can't really do it justice, though thankfully, due to the advent of better technology, you can play an emulated version of this game in your browser window, making it very easy to access these days.
The Atari 2600 has a hell of a lot of jank, but Yars' Revenge shows what the best Atari games do have - an appealing level of simplicity, and the creation of a strong level of investment in those funky shapes on your (hypothetical) TV screen.
played this game all the time as a kid, both on PC and on iPad. Even as an adult, knowing it's flaws (like having inconsistent level design), and getting more familiar with the Sonic franchise as a whole, I still have a massive soft spot for this game.
It has an incredible amount of style and creativity, both in terms of it's music & art direction, and as far as 16-bit era Sonic is concerned, I'd say only Sonic 3 & Knuckles can match it in that regard (tho I'd still say S3&K is the better game overall).
And even if the levels can be janky sometimes, Sonic himself is incredibly fun to control, and I get the feeling this is when early-Sonic Team really started to get the hang of what 2D Sonic strengths were, ultimately perfecting it with S3&K.
Also, Metal Sonic is king.
Found out about this game by looking for the earliest PS1 games on Wikipedia. Was pleasantly surprised at how well the game controlled for a pre-Mario 64 3D platformer.
Plus, the game absolutely oozes with charm & personality – if any game from the early 3D era deserves to have more recognition in the modern day, I would put my money on ‘Jumping Flash!’
An example of the power of great slapstick comedy. Had some of the hardest laughs I’ve ever had while playing a video game.
This review contains spoilers
This was my favourite game ever at the time I first finished it back in 2011, and it only gets better every time I replay it.
There are a lot of things I personally love about Bastion: the gorgeous art-style, the steampunk aesthetics, the robust hack-and-slash combat (with a notable amount of customizable difficulty options, provided organically through gameplay), and especially the soundtrack, which is a mix of Eastern and Western string instrumentals combined with trip-hop and some hard rock.
One of Bastion's biggest draws, though - in my opinion - is it's stridently anti-imperialist narrative. While the game never outright states it's references to real world politics, it's fairly easy to parse out what it tries to allude to - specifically in regards to American imperialism, the War on Terror, and the spectre of nuclear annihilation.
Nativism, xenophobia, the building of literal walls to keep "outsiders" away, Caelondia (a stand-in for the United States) and use of violence as a first response to deal with crisis, the weapons of mass destruction that caused the Calamity in the first place; not to mention the narrative unreliability of Rucks, acting as Caelondia's friendly face, romanticising the past and omitting truths to the other survivors that he's too uncomfortable to face - all of these topics and more are touched upon and explored thoroughly (and tragically, a lot of it continues to remain relevant even a decade after the game's release).
To be fair, this is a lot of information for any kind of media to cover, but to their credit, Supergiant made the very salient decision to deliver this info during (or even by means of) gameplay, allowing the player to be an active participant in the story rather than just an observer.
This respect of player agency culminates in a final(ish) decision about how to move forward: either turn back time and go "back to normal" (but have their memories wiped of their post-Calamity experience, inevitably leading them to repeat the same patterns over and over again), or to continue living in their now-destroyed world, permanently preventing them from going back in time, but allowing them to help any other survivors they could meet.
This decision (along with the one immediately before it, which I WON'T spoil!) is something that's stuck with me on a personal level ever since.
I wish I knew a better way for me to end this review, all I know is Bastion is an absolutely wonderful game, and I'd recommend anyone give it a try if they have the chance.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a general assumption that rich countries would be more resistant to severe disease outbreaks due to the fact that they have more access to all kinds of medications - I'll admit, I was kinda one of those people that thought that before COVID happened.
Papers like The Economist were even claiming that the UK & the USA were among the "best prepared" for an epidemic (as late as March 2020!!!).
What probably wasn't taken into account was the fact that wealthy people would rather let all The Poors die of disease than lift a finger to help those below them, at least not in a way that wasn't completely self-serving.
Last time I checked, rich countries in Plague Inc. are still the hardest to infect, despite Literally Everything that's happened since COVID, which, ironically, makes the game feel more like a fantasy world where governments of rich countries actually give a shit about their citizens.
Anyway, this game is okay. The gameplay loop is still pretty appealing, even if it feels very surreal to play these days. I'm not a fan of games that double-dip by making you pay money for them up front, while also gating content behind in-app purchases, and Plague Inc. is no exception to this.