Game reviews

, | Game reviews
carma_review

If you had told Charles B. Griffith he was responsible for one of the most perfect comedy videogames, he probably would have asked, “What’s a videogame?” Griffith was a prolific screenwriter from a bygone era. In the 50s and 60s, he was a go-to guy for producer Roger Corman when Corman needed a template for another crappy low-budget movie. I don’t know most of the movies based on Griffith’s scripts, but I can imagine what they’re like based on the titles: It Conquered the World, Attack of the Crab Monsters, Ski Troop Attack, Beast from Haunted Cave, A Bucket of Blood, Not of This Earth (apparently the last two aren’t as terrible as the others). Griffith is best known for Little Shop of Horrors, which was a crappy Roger Corman movie before it was a Steve Martin movie adapted to a hit musical. From this, you might guess better filmmakers could have made good movies from his scripts. We may never know.

But Griffith’s most enduring contribution is a videogame he had nothing to do with. Continue reading →

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shadow_warrior_2_zilla_city

As you play Shadow Warrior 2, one of things you learn is that the absolute batshit over-the-top nonsense isn’t, in fact, nonsense. But who could blame you for thinking this is all just a glut of silly killing? The game seems to say as much. Here, have some guns, it says. Have some spells, have some gear. Oh, have these special melee moves. Now have some burning and freezing and poisoning. Have some more guns. Have even more special melee moves. Have more guns. Have a second kind of chainsaw. Now have some slo-mo fury. The more you play, the more of this stuff spills from the absurd gaping maw of the Shadow Warrior cornucopia. It’s overwhelming in the same sense that a Christmas morning would be overwhelming if you thought you’d opened all your gifts, but you kept finding another one behind the tree.

Oh, look, here’s another one! Continue reading →

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13_days_review

I was having dinner with some people a few years ago when a friend of mine, who is actually a well-known role-playing game designer, started making fun of euro games. “It’s just a bunch of abstract concepts wrapped up in gameplay mechanics,” he said, “except that the red cube represents Catholicism.” I bristled at that, because sure you can make a lot of very historical mechanics about Catholicism when you’re playing a role-playing game about being the pope, but how are you going to get enough people to represent all of Europe? Answer me that, smart guy. I went away thinking I was pretty smart, myself.

Turns out he was right. And not just about the Reformation. Continue reading →

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, | Game reviews
clockwork_empires_ghosts

If I was to make a game that I didn’t want anyone to actually play, it would look a lot like Clockwork Empires. A torturous interface with lots of busy little buttons and information spilled across various mutually exclusive screens. Basic tasks that require about two too many steps. Lots of waiting among the various stages of any process, so when you went off to do something else, you might forget the first thing you were doing. One way doors into unrecoverable economic death spirals that you don’t know you’re in until it’s far too late.

Also, it would crash a lot.

After the jump, steamedpunk Continue reading →

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bf1_05_sm

There’s a new multiplayer mode in Battlefield 1 that revolves around the safeguarding of messenger birds. It’s called War Pigeons. Unfortunately, it’s not about armored pigeons with guns strapped to their backs. In this mode, two teams fight to the death, while attempting to claim and safely release an homing pigeon into the sky. It’s escort duty and flag capturing combined, and it’s supremely silly. Close combat, ragdoll explosions, mud, poison gas, and the violence of one of the bloodiest conflicts in history mix with pigeon babysitting. War Pigeons is a good summary of Battlefield 1 in general.

After the break, stop that pigeon! Continue reading →

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civ_vi_review

I just spent thousands of years of accumulated faith to claim Edgar Allen Poe, one of the earliest great writers in Civilization VI. He’ll write The Raven and The Tell-Tale Heart, which are considered great works. They add tourism and culture to a civilization. But great works need to be housed in a “slot”. Basically, a civilization has an inventory for these things. Thousands of years ago, I found The Grass Cutting Sword in a remote village. It’s been sitting in my palace ever since, generating tourism and faith. Because of my close relationship with the city-state of Kandy, I was supposed to get free relics for discovering natural wonders. But, alas, without a place to slot them, they were wasted. Yosemite, Mount Kilimanjaro, and the Great Barrier Reef flashed before my scouts’ eyes and no relics were forthcoming.

To increase great works inventory space, a civilization needs museums, temples, and certain Wonders of the World. Lucky for me, I’ve got the Great Library of Rome, which has room for two writings. It’s been empty for thousands of years. It’s been waiting for Edgar Allen Poe. Now he’s here. At last, it gets two books!

After the jump, or does it? Continue reading →

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epic_pvp_fantasy_review

It’s unfortunate that I’ve lost interest in the “wait for someone else to do math” dynamic of Small World, because Small World is a brilliant concept: take two things and jam them together to make a third thing. In this case, an adjective and a fantasy race. Berserk elves. Wealthy giants. Heroic trolls. Dragon master skeletons. Okay, dragon master isn’t really an adjective, but mastering dragons is so cool it doesn’t matter. The combinatorial possibilities make Small World an unlimited game. All that lurking synergy.

After the jump, smaller than small world Continue reading →

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no_colored

Lincoln Clay is wanted by the Italian mafia, his adopted family has been massacred, and he’s a black man in the southern United States during the late 1960’s. In his hometown of New Bordeaux there are businesses that proudly display “no colored allowed” signs in their windows. There are whole neighborhoods that Lincoln Clay cannot be in without getting the side-eye from white citizens while walking by. The police will always watch him, call him “boy” and will open fire on Clay if he commits any crimes in their vicinity. To everyone else, he is defined by the color of his skin; a man barely qualified to supply menial labor for his supposed betters. Despite all this, Lincoln Clay will shortly own everything in New Bordeaux because he is the star of Mafia III and whatever social commentary the game has will be lost in an open-world grind.

After the jump, all colors allowed. Continue reading →

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star_wars_rebellion_review

I hate hidden movement games. Me and a friend stranded on a desert island with nothing but a copy of Scotland Yard? My worst nightmare. Plaid Hat’s Specter Ops sprinkles a bit more gameplay and a splash of theme into its Scotland Yardness, but hidden movement is hidden movement. You’re still playing a fluid (i.e. drawn-out) version of Battleship. B4? Miss. C4? Miss. B3? Hit! You caught my specter op! Not even Fury of Dracula, spattered with its ropey entrails of viscous gameplay substitute — it’s offal, really — can obscure the fact that it’s just Scotland Yard stretched into an insufferable too-many-hour guessing game, pencil and paper not included.

So it came as a bit of shock when I realized Star Wars: Rebellion, a game I really like, is also a hidden movement game.

After the jump, movement: hidden and loving it Continue reading →

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No_Mans_Sky_1

Elite was amazing back in the day. I mean the original wireframe one. The one out now is pretty good, too, I guess. But it hasn’t been back in the day for, oh, I don’t know, at least ten years? Maybe twenty? Vast, open, and mostly empty universes aren’t so amazing anymore. Open universes need stuff in them. They need content. They need gameplay. They need interlocking gameplay systems. They probably need to compress time and distance with some hoo-ha about hyperlight warp subspace drives. They also probably need trading, combat, faction rep, upgrades, and a story. And, these days, a game can’t very well be a game without crafting.

After the jump, hey, it’s No Man’s Sky! Continue reading →

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Abzu_review

I shouldn’t expect Aquanaut’s Holiday, but I can’t help myself. Drop me into a virtual ocean and I’m going to remember that game’s open-world wonder from a time before open-world was even a thing. It was 1995. It was a Playstation. And not a Playstation One, because there was no such thing. The Playstation 2, 3, and 4 didn’t exist yet. Just a Playstation. It was Japanese, which might explain why it didn’t feel the need to be an actual game. It was instead a virtual ocean released at a time when you couldn’t go online and Google search a forum to start a thread called “uh, what am i supposed to be doing in here anyway?” So I spent most of my time in Aquanaut’s Holiday wondering what was going to happen, if anything, and not particularly minding that nothing was happening because it was so weirdly hypnotic. Relaxing. Sometimes eerie. Years later I would discover you could build a reef to attract fish or something. I suppose that’s gameplay, but it’s nothing I ever figured out.

After the jump, what game are we talking about again? Continue reading →

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Inside_review

Sometimes you pay a price when you write reviews for people who’ve already played a game. That price is people who look to reviews to decide what they’re going to play. Where will they spend their time or money? But if I’m going to critique Inside based on what I know after I’ve played it, and if the majority of Inside’s appeal is discovery, I can’t tell you much without compromising your experience with the game.

In other words, there will be spoilers.

But first, I have three things I want to tell people who haven’t played Inside.

After the jump, don’t worry, it’s safe to keep reading! Continue reading →

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Quadrialteral_Cowboy_review

There’s a bit of The Witness in Quadrilateral Cowboy. Just a tiny bit. The Witness is a game about teaching you how to play The Witness. Period. Full stop. Quadrilateral Cowboy is, at times, a game about teaching you how to play Quadrilateral Cowboy. Dot, dot, dot.

After the jump, I promise you won’t read the word “heuristics” because this isn’t that kind of review. Continue reading →

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Apex_mens_sm

The lumberyard sits steaming in the jungle and my unit, a special operations task force consisting of me and two guys, has orders to destroy bandit supplies hidden within. I open with some rifle shots, taking out a couple of sentries, before the bandits catch on and start laying down a withering blanket of fire into random terrain features. My buddies shoot at an idling cargo truck. I don’t think they’re following the plan any more. An enemy runs down the road, goes prone, spins on his belt buckle, then runs back only to get flattened by another truck going the other way. I die thanks to a lucky shot, but I kill everyone by respawning as a grenadier and lobbing explosives into the encampment. I run between stacks of logs and shoot the last enemy as he stands arms-outstretched in a Christ-like pose while slowly sinking into the concrete floor of a garage. My partners split up so one guy can kneel and stand up, kneel and stand up, kneel and stand up, while the other moron watches a rock. Thanks for the help guys. We leave, me on foot, my team by teleporting. I’m dumped to a mission end screen showing that I killed 23 bad guys by myself. This is Arma 3: Apex.

100 square kilometers of South Pacific Generation Kill, after the break. Continue reading →

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Lego_Force_Awakens_review

I want to like Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I really do. In the past, the folks at Traveller’s Tales have whimsically recalled the joy of Batman, Indiana Jones, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and, of course, Star Wars. But unlike JJ Abrams whimsically recalling the joy of Star Wars with his adroit filmmaking, this latest Lego iteration can’t live up to its inspiration. It’s familiar, played out, and disappointingly half-baked.

After the jump, 87/243, so only 156 Lego characters to go! Continue reading →

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