Your preference between Castlevania II and III says a lot about your personality. One is a methodical, moody, starkly existential game about deciphering the obscure ramblings of a war-torn population, and the other is a Monster-mash action melee. One suits the pacing of a Jorowdowsky or Tarkovskiy movie, the other runs a marathon of James Whale Universal horror villians. One plays out of the story of a cursed man on an occult quest to resurrect a great evil, the other plays out the story of a holy man on a linear quest to exact justice. One is a brooding masterpiece and the other is a cheap rollercoaster.
Invest In An Oak Stake
|Submitted by the99th on Wed, 02/16/2011 - 16:03.|
Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Pioneering Ludic Horror
|Submitted by costik on Fri, 01/07/2011 - 03:34.|
I'll get this out of the way quickly, because it irks me but it is totally irrelevant, really: To me, Amnesia in a game context will, forever and always, be the brilliant text adventure written by Tom Disch, the equally brilliant author of On Wings of Song, one of my favorite science fiction novels, as well as of The Puppies of Terra, which I have always thought was the inspiration for Porno for Pyro's We'll Make Great Pets.
The Warbler's Nest
The gap between you and "you"
|Submitted by EmilyShort on Mon, 11/29/2010 - 02:15.|
The Warbler's Nest is an interactive fiction about perception: what seems to be going on may or may not be what is actually going on.
But many of the other games that explore the same territory do so in order to talk about the nature of mental illness, self-deception, or confusion about one's own identity: that is, they're presenting the crisis as one that occurs within the protagonist.
In The Warbler's Nest, the double vision is about what the protagonist knows vs. what the player knows. The game reports something in the protagonist's voice, but there are enough signals to the player to encourage him to at least consider the situation based on a 21st-century understanding of reality.
Having the player understand more than the protagonist has been used for humorous effect a few times: Grunk in Lost Pig reports experiences that the player is better able to interpret than the protagonist, and one of my favorite moments in Treasures of A Slaver's Kingdom involves intentionally letting the protagonist fall into a trap he's too dumb to notice.
But this time around, the dissonance isn't a joke, and the point isn't about people being slow-witted. Instead, it's about the importance of the world views we apply to everything we see, and how much tragedy may be in the mind of the onlooker.
The Warbler's Nest also uses the textual nature of the medium to full advantage. Every description, every atmospheric detail deepens the ambiguity of the protagonist's situation. The protagonist's own thoughts become a source of subtle menace. What's more, the words you choose to talk about the things in your environment affect how the game plays, because they express what you think is going on.
[If you've never played any interactive fiction before, you may like this condensed guide for help with command types.]
The Black Heart
Carpal Tunnel Otra Vez
|Submitted by the99th on Sat, 11/21/2009 - 22:48.|
The Black Heart has the best production values of any free game ever released. It is dope as fuck. I mean, I try to use sophisticated language when describing games, but some times, times such as this, there is no phrase that could be more appropriate than saying: this game is awesomely, extremely, manifestly dope as fuck. Are you with me?
The King of Shreds and Patches
(Don't) Look Away
|Submitted by EmilyShort on Thu, 08/13/2009 - 16:16.|
Here's what's great about a Call of Cthulhu interactive fiction: you can peer at the unspeakable evils, go mad, be sent to a lunatic asylum, and gruesomely die as often as you want -- and then UNDO to play on, your protagonist unsullied by madness while the player has seen into the abyss over and over.
The King of Shreds and Patches is Jimmy Maher's adaptation of a Call of Cthulhu module by Justin Tynes, and created with the permission of Chaosium. It's interactive fiction, but IF bolstered by atypical extras: a graphical map that develops during play, a goal-tracking system that keeps track of what you're supposed to be working on at the moment, and context-based hints. A characteristic it shares with some other very recent releases -- notably Aaron Reed's massive Blue Lacuna -- is its willingness to adopt gameplay conventions from other forms of gaming in order to make play more accessible to people who haven't spent their whole lives playing IF.
In other formal respects, The King of Shreds and Patches is notable not so much for any specific features as for its scope, solidity, and ability to pull together many already-known IF virtues. There's extensive conversation, and (more surprisingly) combat; not randomized fight scenes, but combat puzzles of the sort where there are multiple ways to block or disarm the opponent but you only have a few moves to think of one. The setting is Elizabethan London, just -- the Queen is dying -- and the geography and props give a sense of period, though the dialogue and conception of the universe sometimes seem a bit more modern; both of which elements are probably true to the original RPG module, though I imagine Jimmy must have done a fair amount of research to fill in such details as the correct working of a printing press ca. 1600.
But what makes the game interesting from an interactive storytelling perspective is its particular use of the losing endings: the way it invites the player to go mad, and go mad, and go mad again (and then UNDO and happily escape). In this respect it is not unlike Anchorhead, another game that gives depths to the protagonist's terror by implementing many forms of death and making it likely that the player will meet quite a few of them before succeeding.
The difference is that in Anchorhead, those deaths are usually the result of the player's failure: failure to solve a difficult puzzle in time, failure to plan ahead. When the protagonist succeeds, it is through cunning, skill, and determination. In The King of Shreds and Patches, the emphasis on terrible (yet fascinating) secrets is stronger, and the descriptions of many dread documents and other occult objects lure the player on to look. The player's interest in finding out what is going on is at odds with the protagonist's need to survive. I rarely died in The King of Shreds and Patches without knowing what I was getting into and bringing that outcome on myself deliberately.
I didn't think, ultimately, that The King of Shreds and Patches achieved quite Anchorhead's successes with mood and menace expressed through setting. The writing is a little less well observed and the set scenes less subtle. But it achieves something else instead. The temptation to discover the unspeakable, and the imperative not to, is the main conflict in Lovecraftian stories and a core mechanic in Call of Cthulhu. Maher's undo-able deaths -- some of which are merely horrific, others surprisingly evocative -- handle the same problem but in a way unique to his medium.
Having the experience of giving in to that temptation makes the overall story richer and deeper, because it allows the player to experience the world fully even as the protagonist absolutely must not.
N.B.: The King of Shreds and Patches was built using Glulx. To play the game, you need to install a Glulx interpreter on your machine, and download the game file. We link to Glulx interpreters for PC, Mac, and Linux above. Those new to interactive fiction may also be interested in the introduction found here.
Diablo ´em Up
|Submitted by the99th on Wed, 07/08/2009 - 16:32.|
Rake In The Grass has been making very meaty, very polished fusions of arcade spectacle and thinking optimization. The best example was the immortal Jets'n'Guns, which has gotten plenty of replay even though its myriad combinations suffer from some balancing issues. Larva Mortus gives you a similar dish: repetitive action fused with RPG elements, mixed with a horror aesthetic that comes off somewhere between H.P. Lovecraft and the Vincent Price monologue from Thriller. As your revolver bullets tear into zombie flesh, faces of demons flash over screen, psychologically interesting the first time, then eventually an obfuscation challenge. It feels badass like Jets but without the tongue-in-cheek satire; the procedurally generated levels put you in a Sisyphean loop while you earnestly send demons back to hell.
Mechanically the RPG elements suffer from balancing issues but unlike the issues in Jets, the number of components aren´t as numerous so the gaps are more noticeable. You have seven skills that can be upgraded each time you gain a level: health, health regain rate, time affected by status ailments, probability of item drops, damage dealt by the melee weapon, walk speed, and the XP bonus. Now, I´m a finance geek; when I play Tower Defense games and I see bonuses for like a Tesla Tower, a Flamethrower Tower, and then a 10% interest bonus, I´m like "hey, let me at that 10%". The first time through I went for the deferred trade-off of more skill dependence early on for greater power later. The problem is that XP pay-offs don´t scale much between enemies, while the amount of XP you need per level gain grows in a logarithmic fashion (technically it moves in a graded steps, but the regression is logarithmic). So if you invest a lot of skill points into more XP, you can´t really get ahead and end up wasting most of your bonuses. Luck and regeneration are similarly disposable; since the odds can be churned and you can wait to heal for as long as your patience allows, they´re mostly conveniences. The melee weapon is the only one whose damage scales, but it also carries the most risk, so you need to invest the majority of your points into it to get a real balance there. There is therefore a dominant strategy in putting all your points in walk speed and health with a few in status resistance.
Still, the basic gameplay is pretty satisfying, the pathy map generators keep tickling some basic maze-crawler left over from paleolithic evolution, and the leveling and items are compelling enough to keep you trucking. If you´re in the mood for these kind of grind-fests then you regret the trek into the underworld.
1989 Meets 2009
|Submitted by costik on Mon, 05/04/2009 - 02:08.|
Malstrum's Mansion is a serious retro hoot; from the first Flash screen, which imperfectly recreates the screen of a 512K Mac running the Finder with the floppy disk for a game called "Malstrum's Mansion" in the drive, you know you're not in the same century. Upon starting, you're asked for the kind of "copy protection" scheme we used to use -- you must enter a particular word from the manual (or in this case, readme file).
Super Lovecraft Brothers
|Submitted by TheDustin on Mon, 04/20/2009 - 20:18.|
Platformers are cute, right? Nothing more than super-saturated, saccharine romps through whimsical worlds populated by bug-eyed and harmless enemies... right? Eversion defies the rule by providing a typically cheery world and slowly letting it decay.
|Submitted by the99th on Wed, 03/25/2009 - 00:32.|
Here's the short review, to help you decide if this is worth buying. First, listen to Booty Queen by Lizz King. If you like that song, adventure games, or getting caught in the rain, then buy this thing. If you expect some kind of tight time-cycle between action and response, if you expect strategic depth or even a modicum of decision-making depth, if you expect any level of rapidity, you should pass. Most of the reviews have made the dual mistakes of either praising this game uncritically or dismissing it out of hand because it does not suit the reviewer's personal tastes. "The Path is the art of the goddess, and if you don't like it you're a philistine!" meanders over to the other extreme, reacting "not a game, wtf!" I have a secret weapon that no other reviewer has applied, co-op mode. I played this with a 19-year-old Argentian that I also wolf on periodically, she's a non-gamer but did work at an Xbox call center.
|Submitted by EmilyShort on Fri, 07/25/2008 - 00:03.|
Necrotic Drift is one of my favorite games to bring out whenever discussing the relationship between player and protagonist.
In the interests of full disclosure, I should mention that I've been flamed just for saying that before, because someone found the opening sequence so unpleasant as to be angry I had caused him to have any contact with the game at all.
So consider yourself warned: this game includes heaping helpings of profanity; copious references to drug use, sexuality, and violence; misogynistic and otherwise seriously unenlightened characters; and at least one grotesque misapplication of every secretion the human body can produce. There's an artistic purpose to it all, but I wouldn't want anyone thinking this was a good game to introduce to their Sunday school class.
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