Just as the internet commotion covering Cuphead‘s huge success, intense fan community, and difficulty has finally seemed to die down, I’ve had a chance to complete it. Long story short, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it checks many of the boxes that make it a great experience both in style and mechanical substance.
The game’s complete name, Cuphead: Don’t Deal With the Devil, handily explains what you’re getting into. Cuphead and his pal Mugman stumble upon a casino where they make a lot of money. However, they (more specifically Cuphead) fall into the trap of gambling against the Devil. Losing their bet, they beg for an alternative. In order to save their own souls, they must hunt down other debtor’s soul contracts, which comes down to getting in lots of fights.
As much as I want to play Mystic Messenger’s newest route, the better part of my mind is annoyingly making a pretty convincing argument for not completely trashing my sleep schedule for the time being. So, I’m left getting my visual novel fix from other sources. Luckily, I stumbled upon one before the urge became unbearable.
Despite sounding like something I would name a fake game as a joke, Team Salvato’s Doki Doki Literature Club takes the typical slice of life school romance plots and uses its medium to make something truly memorable. While every dating sim and visual novel can be interpreted as a small, in-depth exploration of human (or human-like) nature, Doki Doki Literature Club uses its story to explore the extents of kindness and humanity, and if it can or should cross the boundaries of the narrative fourth wall, leaving players evaluating and re-evaluating their first impressions of the main characters. Before you continue on, reader, I highly suggest you experience everything DDLC has to offer before I spoil it for you. Team Salvato is offering the game for a “name your price” cost on the game’s itch.io page, as well as for free download from Steam. The first run will more than likely take around four hours to complete, but in my opinion it’s entirely worth it. One more thing: please, please heed the content warnings on the game’s page—they aren’t fucking around.
Screenshot taken by me
Massive spoilers below! Trigger warning for depression and self-harm.
I almost don’t know where to start talking about Tacoma. There’s a lot going on at once in the game and, yet, very little of it actually happens to the player character. Like The Fullbright Company’s first title, Gone Home, Tacoma combines a powerful and intimate story about human relationships with a genre setting that creates an immersive atmosphere for the player to piece that story together. In GH, that was the story of a family going through rough times and the setting was a “haunted house” they’d recently moved into, and in Tacoma, the story is that of the crew of a recently abandoned space station and the setting is the station they left behind. Also like its predecessor, Tacoma’s story is extremely inclusive. After playing Gone Home I remember thinking, “I can’t wait to see what they can do with a bigger budget now that this game is a huge success.” The answer is Tacoma, and it’s an answer that was worth waiting for.
The main hallway of Tacoma station; while there’s a cool zero gravity basketball mini game to play here and some fantastic views, the stories behind these doors are what makes the game memorable. (Screenshot from Tacoma.)
At one point about a year ago, I was thinking of writing a Sexualized Saturdays post on Portal, but when I discovered that our own BrothaDom had already written that article, I cursed the whole “great minds think alike” thing and moved on. But something about Portal kept refusing to let me drop the idea of doing an article on it and I think I finally figured out what it is: GLaDOS is, arguably, an unsung feminist icon.
Admit it, even after all the attempted murder… you still kinda want to give her a hug right? (Image via The Portal Wiki.)
Much of the media discussion of Portal centers around the awesomeness of Chell as a groundbreaking example of “female as generic default” for a game protagonist… because she is! But, mostly in Portal 2, there’s a whole lot more narrative devoted to GLaDOS’s backstory and the way it changes the emotional tone of her relationship with Chell. Along the way, we get a narrative about who and what GLaDOS really is, which takes her from being little more than a gameplay mechanic to a truly deep and memorable character. The main story arc in which that transpires is one in which Chell and GLaDOS confront a patriarchal system that has turned them both into pawns in an infinite game and where the cycle of violence brought by abuse is a central theme.
(TW: Discussion of abusive relationships and violence against women.)
Overwatch has been out for over a year now. We’ve seen lots of updates and gameplay patches, tons of cosplays, and an approximately infinite amount of fanart and articles on the game’s social issues and impacts. Suffice to say, the game has been a worldwide phenomenon among many audiences. In this regard, Overwatch has executed the seemingly difficult task of being a hit with both experienced players and casual players, as well as with both gameplay enthusiasts and fandom participants (and of course, these two can overlap). It’s one of the best examples of a game that has accomplished garnering such an audience, and I’d like to explore how they’ve done this.
The last thing I need right now is another game. I know this, but I also know full well that I’ll always, always make time for dating sims. I was pulled into this one by a couple of people from one of my D&D groups and was pleasantly surprised to discover that while I’m certainly easily swayed into trying dating sims by people simply saying that they’re good, this game is good. Very good. Follow me below the cut for a tale of murder, magic, intrigue, and most importantly, the Arcana.
2017 has been a hell of a year for video games. One could argue it has been the best year in quite a while! We’ve seemingly had at least one Game of the Year contender every month, with no sign of that stopping as we approach the end of the year. We’ve had new franchises crop up such as Horizon: Zero Dawn, older franchises getting rejuvenated such as Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and the continuous drip of indie games such as Night in the Woods and the upcoming Cuphead. Quite honestly, many avid game players are overwhelmed with options in a good way. Nostalgia trips haven’t been left out either. As I said, Zelda has come back into play and pixel based indie games are as popular as ever. The perfect crossover here, for me, was the release of Sonic Mania.
First off, I should probably say that I cannot be totally impartial when reviewing anything related to Life is Strange. That game had a profound impact on me, and, from a storytelling perspective, is one of my all time favorite pieces of media, let alone just video games. Accordingly, I had extremely high expectations for “Awake,” the first episode of the just-released prequel Life is Strange: Before the Storm.
Fortunately, this was not meant to be directed at the fans, as the overwhelmingly positive Steam reviews will attest. (Screenshot from Life is Strange: Before the Storm.)
Set well after the death of Chloe’s father William, but years before the events of the original game, Deck Nine’s Before the Storm follows a similar narrative and gameplay style to the original. Playing as Chloe Price rather than a still absent Maxine Caulfield, you enter into the beginning of her relationship with Rachel Amber and the subtly supernatural lead up to the eponymous storm at the ultimate conclusion(s) of Chloe’s story. The gameplay mechanics replace Max’s time-rewinding skills with Chloe’s ability to shit-talk her way out of anything (or at least fail to do so in an intense and often amusing way), but retain the core mechanics of decision-based interactive cutscenes interspersed with walking simulator-type gameplay.
I expected that this game, while technically a prologue, would serve as a form of “emotional epilogue” to Season 1 of the main game from Dontnod, since Season 2 will focus on entirely new stories and characters. In that regard, and many others, Before the Storm has largely succeeded in giving me what I most wanted from it: more Life is Strange, and particularly more Chloe Price.
I don’t have to tell anyone reading this site that we’re living in a world saturated by superhero media. Between the hundreds of movies, TV shows, Netflix originals, video games, and of course comics, how does one stand out from the crowd? Especially when you’re one of many adapting/rebooting something as ridiculously overdone as Batman? Well, you do what Telltale Games does: you acknowledge that media saturation and the fact that your title character is a pop culture icon, and you decide to use that to do something different. You accept that your players will be bringing some knowledge of the superhero franchise—be it Batman or, more recently, Guardians of the Galaxy—you’re adapting to the table. And you use that knowledge as a foundation to play on audience expectations and take the opportunity to toy, fanfiction-style, with some “what if?” scenarios to create innovative and intriguing new takes on the familiar stories. And you do it all while exploring and giving agency to sidelined women characters, too!
Spoilers (mostly minor, but major ones are tagged) for both Batman: The Telltale Series and Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series beyond the jump! Continue reading →
A while back I posted a review for Zoo Tycoon, and sadly, I still haven’t found a version to work on my computer since then. Not being able to build my own dinosaur zoo where the animals eat the guests—or any zoo at all—has dug a nearly unfillable hole in my life. And even though watching the Jurassic Park movies could fill it, the only movie in the franchise that’s not complete shit is the first one, and after watching it a dozen or so times, I need a little more variety in my dinosaur experience. Enter Jurassic World Evolution, a game I’m shoving all my hopes and dreams onto, so it better not suck.