Monday, 28 July 2014

Review: Child of Light (PS3)

child of light

What can be best described as a video game fairy tale, Child of Light is almost like stepping into one of those beautiful short stories we used to read as kids, complete with fantastical watercolours.

The story follows Aurora, the daughter of a widowed Duke who one night wakens from her sleep in an alternate universe called Lemuria, which has had its moon, sun and stars stolen by the Dark Queen. Aurora's first inkling upon waking up is to return home, but in order to do this she must defeat the Dark Queen and return Lemuria's stolen celestial belongings.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Review: Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack (360)

tales from space mutant blobs attack
Drinkbox Studios is one of those Canadian independent developers that just seems to know how to scratch that gaming itch in some of the most inventive ways.

Guacamelee is easily one of the more entertaining platformers right now, blending Latin tropes with a side-scrolling Metroid-vania experience (and some downright silliness). Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack takes older B-movie tropes and throws the concept into an action/puzzle hybrid. One part Katamari Damacy, one part side-scroller, one part puzzle and a whole lot of chuckling. You start off absorbing random pieces of small garbage on the floor of a college dorm and work your way up to absorbing buildings by the game end – and honestly, who doesn't chuckle at the thought of absorbing an entire city block just by rolling over it?

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

When Stories Happen on Their Own

Everquest had its own stories, but the
best were those created while
playing with friends.
For the last 30 years, stories have played a big part in video games. It all started as the industry transitioned out of high score focused content a la Pac Man, Frogger, et al, and into saving princess / the world / the universe. Sometimes they could be pretty simple like in Super Mario Bros. where players helped Mario rescue Princess Peach from Bowser, other times things could be a lot more sophisticated with RPGs and adventure games leading the charge.

This has continued to the current day, but all of these have been pre-written stories laden with scripted events, dialog trees, and the like. There's a fairly fixed path laid out before the player with only so many options available to them as to how they can progress, which is a natural outcome of having a game that goes for a passive form of storytelling in the same vein as film or literature. It's been the staple of how narratives unfold in games for decades now, but things have slowly started to change as online multiplayer has cemented itself in the medium. New types of stories are starting to unfold in games, often events that developers never expected for their creations. It's happening as players make their own stories organically by naturally making their way through a game. While still in its infancy, the trend is picking up steam, and making for some very interesting experiences.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Review: Contrast (Xbox One)

As Canada's top video game collector, I have a lot of games. I have more than 15,000 of them to be (mostly) exact. So one thing I am never at a loss for is what game to play next because I have an endless supply of them. So, when I turned around to play the Xbox One version of Contrast right after finishing the PlayStation 4 version you have to appreciate how significant that is for me.

Contrast is a Canadian-developed indie game that stars Dawn, the imaginary friend of Didi. Didi lives with her mother in the 1920's. A precocious little child, Didi guides you along in a world of shadows. Where Dawn seems to exist in the "real" world and can shift in and out of the shadows, the majority of the game's characters exist only in the shadow world. The story is about Didi and her family and it's hard not to tell you more about that without giving away too much.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Preview: Destiny (Multiplatform)


Unless you've been sleeping for the last fifteen years or so, it should be a point of common knowledge that Bungie makes some really excellent shooters.  They did it with the Marathon series, they did it again with the Halo series, and they're looking to make the hat trick with Destiny.  Bungie faithful have been following the project closely and with their public beta test coming up, it's shaping up very impressively.

Playing Dress Up in Games

Final Fantasy XIV Bard
Bards are arguably one of the most stylish jobs in
Final Fantasy XIV.
Customization has become increasingly popular in games over the decades. Whether it's something on the technical end like tweaking graphic settings or an RPG where players have points to allocate to various stats on their characters, this sort of thing has been quite useful and people really eat it up. While customization has been a big thing on the practical side of the spectrum, it's also become all the rage from a stylistic standpoint. It could be something like having multiple costumes for fighting game characters, or graphically reflecting equipment upgrades in an RPG, or it could be like in MMORPGs where many games have gone so far as to allow vanity gear that players can acquire simply to make their character as stylish as they like while still retaining stats from other gear that actually is useful in battle.

I remember it being a very simple thing, back when my friends and I played Street Fighter II in the arcades during the early 90s. Get into a mirror match with someone and inevitably one of you would be stuck with a color scheme on your character that you probably didn't like. This used to happen to me with Ryu all the time. I was a traditionalist with him and many of the other SFII characters at the time, and much preferred their original colors, as opposed to the alternatives, and couldn't help but cringe when I didn't get them.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Review: Wolfenstein - The New Order (PS4)

Wolfenstein - The New Order
My first contact with Wolfenstein was two decades ago.

I still remember playing the original Wolfenstein on my piece of junk computer that had 4 megabytes of RAM and 33 MHZ of power. What a time to be a kid!

Throughout the years, Wolfenstein has made appearances on the original Xbox, Xbox 360 and finally makes it way to the PlayStation 4!  There haven't been many big name titles released in the new year for the PS4, so it was a great feeling to wipe off the thick layer of dust from my console that has accumulated over the past several months.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Review: Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure (PC)

tesla effect a tex murphy adventure

It's 2014 and there's a new Tex Murphy game.

This is the thought that continued to tumble through my brain while playing Tesla Effect.

A new Tex Murphy game. In 2014. If you're a fan of the series, that's about all you need to know and by now you've probably already played it, for everyone else keep reading. There's a barrel of monkeys in it for you.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Review: Guacamelee - Super Turbo Championship Edition (PS4)

Guacamelee - Super Turbo Championship Edition

Guacamelee steps back into the ring with a “Game of the year edition” treatment: Super Turbo Championship Edition! Aside from being a nod to Street Fighter, this rendition gives us an overhauled story which features some new abilities, enemies, and the surprisingly satisfying ability called INTENSO, but is it worth donning Juan's mask once again?

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Book Review: Words of Radiance (Book Two of the Stormlight Saga)

What's most amazing to me about Words of Radiance, Book Two of the Stormlight Saga is just how much I remember of Book One, which I read four years ago. In the intervening time I read most of the Wheel of Time books, including Brian Sanderson's completing volumes, and so much else I was expecting to spend the first few hundred pages trying to recall details of the opening of what is shaping up to be an epic book series.

That was not the case.

The broadstroke details of the conflict on the Shattered Plains and the major players are easily remembered and Sanderson does a good job filling in the minor details or prompting the reader a bit to jog a memory loose. It speaks to how well Sanderson has been able to flesh out the fantasy world of Roshar. Besides the main plots, there are a number of seemingly unrelated interludes interspersed throughout the novel that pad out the page total but also offer significant details about how the world functions. It's not all about conflict with the Pershendi amid violent highstorms. There's insight into trade and the extent of the Spren crossover allowing regular humans to take on superhuman abilities by absorbing stormlight and involvement and the importance of Surgebinding.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Preview: Tales of Xillia 2 (PS3)

Tales of Xillia 2

If fan fiction and official releases are any indicator, there are some fictional worlds that we just can't get enough of, even if the stories of the original heroes have long since been finished.  Such is the case with Tales of Xillia 2.  A direct sequel, it takes place a year after the conclusion of the first game, but gives us a new story set in the brave new world that was created.  Since it is a new story, a new hero with all new problems is introduced, though some old friends from the first game will be showing up.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Confessions of a Steam Sale Junkie

Jeff and Aaron offer insights about themselves and what Steam has become in light of the recent Steam Summer Sale.
So, we're in the wake of yet another Summer Steam Sale, and people were getting all excited about picking up games on the cheap that they'd been meaning to get for a while. For the first time ever, I found myself not really participating in it. I got all of one game, and couldn't be bothered to go back and see what else was been on offer.

Talking with several of my friends, their stories have been the same. In years past, they gorged themselves on all sorts of different titles, going along with the running gag about Steam sales where "You can even play the games after you buy them!" And play them we did, but seldom to completion, or even to the halfway mark. Often it was a few hours of futzing around before heading off to play one of the other games we'd grabbed and tossed into our ever more bulging libraries.

Preview: Evolve (Multiplatform)


When Turtle Rock Studios put out Left4Dead, they not only made shooters interesting again, they redefined the “zombie apocalypse” scenario in a delightfully demented fashion.  It wasn't just about blowing away zombies, it was about working with your buddies to make it to safety. Now, Turtle Rock is giving the sci-fi “bug hunt” scenario a similar shot in the arm with Evolve.