An extrinsically motivated hellscape of tolerably good times
There’s a famous 70’s psychology experiment, replicated many times since, where a bunch of kids were told to draw some pictures. One group were told they’d get a reward, while another group got no reward. After a couple of weeks, scientists observed an interesting pattern: Compared to the no-reward group, the kids who got a reward were significantly less interested in drawing, and their pictures were worse.
This is called the overjustification effect, and if you wonder what this has to do with a 2018 triple‑A video game, I promise it will become relevant soon.
An X‑Files style Metroidvania may sound compelling, but how is the execution?
Any review of a cultural work will inherently be subjective. You can, and to some extent should, strive for a modicum of objectivity when arguing for your opinion, and you should try to step outside your initial impression of the work and recognize strengths and weaknesses you may have overlooked. Still, your opinion is what it is, and at least on a non-professional blog such as mine, I have no illusions that what I present is anything other than my own opinion.
Despite several issues, it has never felt this good to Jedi the heck out of the Empire.
It has been a dark time for fans of single-player Star Wars games. After EA secured the rights in 2013, the only games released have been the two multiplayer Battlefront games, only one of which offered a short single-player campaign.
To the rescue comes Titanfall developer Respawn Entertainment with Jedi: Fallen Order, a single-player Star Wars game combining the lightsabers and Force powers of ye olde Jedi Knight games with Soulsborne combat, Tombcharted exploration and environmental puzzles, and Metroidvania-style (semi)-open ability-gated level design. Is it enough to restore peace and order to the galaxy?
No matter your taste in games, it would not be an overstatement to say that every year, we are inundated with a deluge of fantastic experiences. Overstatements abound, however, in the odes penned by marketing departments, aggrandizing their subject with claims of ground-breaking, innovative features that redefine a mechanic, a genre, nay, gaming itself! In reality, of course, as with any cultural expression, most games walk down well-trodden paths and offer only incremental improvements in familiar genres.
Occasionally, there comes a game that truly is novel. It may defy genres, or mix them in a new way. It may present a fresh take on a well-known genre by bring a new mechanic to the table, or by removing one of the genre’s central mechanics. Snake Pass is of the latter kind, being a 3D platformer where you’re a snake and must slither your way across obstacles and hazards, notably without being able to jump.
Doom is a well-executed breath of fresh air in an age of morally ambiguous, cover-based shooters.
The status of Id Software’s Doom (1993) as a legend in the history of video games is undisputed. But what would it look like if it was created today? How would the mechanics translate to modern game design? And would it be as fun?
The series’ most recent instalment, Doom (2016), may provide the answer.
Hell is oneself when you’re struggling with the living nightmare that is psychosis.
“Turn back!” cries a voice. “She never listens”, mocks another one. “She must go on!” a third demands. The cacophony of voices reaches a crescendo as you stretch your arm toward the door. Your vision starts to blur. Swirly, dark shadows slithers across the landscape. The sky darkens. You open the door.
The Darkness subsides. “She’s not… dead”, whispers a surprised voice. You may yet be consumed by it, but you escaped this time.
A witty commentary on forum subculture makes this much more than just a good map pack.
What is an online community? How do information and misinformation inform common beliefs and dogmas? How do those beliefs again inform art? And how does all of this interplay with roles and relationships in the community?
Writers Tom Jubert and Jonas Kyratzes return for story duty in this expansion to The Talos Principle, meaning Road to Gehenna sports another rewarding and masterfully crafted narrative.
Good puzzle design, an enigmatic narrative, and an excellent soundtrack combine to make this a great experience.
Behold, child. You are risen from the dust, and you walk in my garden. Hear now my voice, and know that I am your maker, and I am called ELOHIM. Seek me in my temple, if you are worthy.
Thus begins The Talos Principle, with a fatherly, yet commanding voice coming from everywhere and nowhere. The words, more than subtly inspired by Genesis, invite you to start your quest to solve increasingly difficult puzzles, for whichever reason. But it is not just the mechanics what will challenge you; your enigmatic circumstances will also have you befuddled in this philosophically heavy game.
For all the exploitative design, games provide solid female characters, too.
Happy International Women’s Day! Female gaming characters don’t have a reputation for being feminist-friendly, but there are many exceptions. In that regard, allow me to highlight a few of my favorites.
Cradle is an interesting and imperfect narrative puzzle that may or may not be a tad bit too smart for me.
You know you should prepare your mental faculties for a potentially challenging experience when the development studio is a Ukranian four-man team called Flying Cafe for Semianimals.
Their first game, Cradle, is a first-person exploratory sci-fi adventure released in 2015, and a game I find rather difficult to review. One reason is the game’s short length making it hard to avoid spoilers (which I also experienced when reviewing Abzû). But more importantly, I get the distinct feeling that the game had some deeper layers that were lost on me. Regardless, quite a bit can safely be said, and there are a few bones I’d like to pick.