Game 145: Scribblenauts Unlimited
What do you get when you give the player complete omnipotence and try to make your game a fun challenge rather than something to tinker with briefly? Well, developers 5th Cell have been trying to answer that question ever since the first Scribblenauts came out. Each game has had about 3 things to try that will solve almost every puzzle in the game, but Unlimited took a different approach. Instead of having the player simply try to get through obstacles to get the macguffins, they instead have to make people happy by fulfilling their oddly specific desires.
It adds a creative edge to the gameplay and expands the number of possible solutions needed to about 10. In all seriousness though, it really does make the challenges more interesting and levels are more full of quick challenges rather than focused on long ones making the game a breeze to get through and keeps the gameplay well paced due to the number of readily available challenge options at any given point.
Additionally, the gameplay challenges tend to lend themselves to being fun not simply by finding the solution, but by finding the most outlandish solution possible for a challenge. For example, I had to save Hansel and Gretel from the evil witch by distracting her with smells from the oven. I tried a few things I didn’t think would work but would be funny if they did. One of the things I tried was to put a baby in the oven which worked and a flaming baby crawled out of the oven crying. I felt terrible. Kid-friendly entertainment ladies and gentlemen. So maybe that was a bad example, but summoning Cthulu to be ridden into battle by Horus or giving a cleric morphine to heal her adventuring party does lend itself to some silly fun.
It seems like the game series is getting its formula constantly improved and despite the fact that I got very good at typing “immortal superfast superstrong flying” to add adjectives to myself at the beginning of every level and the adjective “omniscient” rarely solved any problems I really did have a bunch of fun with this game. It’s definitely worth tinkering with even if it’s just to ride a dragon into battle against evil Santa and his army of succbi and longcats while backed up by The Village People and God himself armed with a rocket launcher.
Game 144: Proteus
There isn’t much substance to this game so there isn’t really much I can say without stealing some of the experience from you if you haven’t played it. Proteus is a short game that’s based around wandering an island over the course of the seasons. It’s super artsy in its presentation with a huge focus on the musical as you wander the island not really doing much and just kinda taking in the atmosphere.
While a game like this can hide behind the protection of being artsy from criticism, the game does very little to engage the player, especially early on. That said, the beginning helps you realize there is no true goal simply from the lack of direction.
It’s an intriguing game, but not really groundbreaking. It’s interesting to see the island change over time and the ending is pretty beautiful, but, beyond the clever use of sound and small hints at a story here and there, the game simply did not appeal much to me. It’s worth trying if you get a chance, but it’s not really something I would go out of my way for honestly.
Game 143: Mark of the Ninja
To itch that stealth game scratch that hasn’t been satisfied since Arkham City (still haven’t touched or even really seen much of Origins), Mark of the Ninja was a fantastic game. The game is chock full of interesting mechanics for stealthing around including visible sound radii, a grappling hook, and even a teleport later in the game. Every area has interesting challenges that take concentration and planning and feel incredibly satisfying to get through.
Game 142: Gunpoint
Did you like Yahtzee’s stealth game The Art of Theft? Do you like puzzles that don’t feel like puzzles and instead make you feel like the clever bastard that you are? Do you like punchy British humor? I don’t care what your answers are because you should totally play this game anyways.
Gunpoint is a stealth game with an amusingly convoluted plot, great characters, and super fun gameplay involving leaping up buildings to escape guards, wiring motion sensors to trap guards in rooms, punching guards, pushing guards out windows, wiring guards’ guns to shoot each other, and kicking doors into guards.
The gameplay doesn’t have any pretensions about hiding once being spotted and instead when you get found you just get shot instantly. It’s a bit refreshing for a stealth game and allows for fast-paced gameplay when you want it and encourages you wholeheartedly to remain in the shadows.
Despite its brevity, it is thoroughly enjoyable the entire way through and I want to see this man make more games. I wish I had more to say, but this game knows exactly what it is and that’s a silly, well assembled stealth game and I respect and enjoy the hell out of that.
Game 141: Bioshock Infinite
This game was talked about a ton upon release and is still discussed quite frequently now. I had to aggressively avoid anything related to it until recently in order to avoid spoilers and other than a few parts here and there, I’m honestly not sure avoiding spoilers helped my experience too much. The game isn’t as spoiler-laden as I would have expected mostly because I’m still trying to figure out what on earth happened in the ending. That doesn’t mean you should go check out discussions and analyses of it if you haven’t played yet, just don’t expect to come out the other side understanding things.
One thing that strikes me after playing this game is that while it’s very well put together story-wise, but the gameplay seems to be either at odds with the story or at odds with what exactly it wants to be for most of the game, and yet it works. This spoiler-y video by Errant Signal details in many ways why the gameplay simply doesn’t work very well, and yet I found it to be a blast anyways.
Game 140: Rayman Legends
So after a surprising and well deserved amount of success for Rayman Origins a couple years back for being probably the greatest platformer in the last decade at least, the guys and gals of Ubisoft Montpellier were far from done. This game was originally announced as a Wii U exclusive, but after seeing the poor sales of Zombie U, Ubisoft decided to make it for all major platforms, but it is still quite obvious that it was designed with the Wii U touch pad controller in mind.
Game 139: Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet
It’s games like these that make me appreciate indie developers. This game isn’t too bizarre to be made into a triple-A game if a studio decided to pick it up, but I can tell it would be much different and have a lot less of the subtle atmosphere. I imagine the developers trying to pitch this to, say, EA.
Shadow Planet Productions: We want to make a game where you play as a small creature in a UFO going around his home planet trying to stop an evil force from devouring everything.
EA: Alright, so what were you planning on tying it into? Sounds like a potential spin-off for the Mass Effect series.
SPP: What? No, we were hoping for it to be a new IP.
EA: A new IP, huh? If you really want that to happen *snicker*, then I hope you were planning on state-of-the-art graphics.
SPP: Actually we were hoping for a more silhouetted artistic look to it. Kinda like Limbo with color.
EA: I’m not exactly sure that would work out… But, let’s try to stay positive. What were you thinking of for the multiplayer?
SPP: Multiplayer? Well, we wouldn’t mind doing a little multiplayer if we had time for it. We were thinking of that as secondary, maybe released as DLC down the line for free.
EA: Alright, before I kick you out of my office for wasting my time, I’m curious, what type of game would it be?
SPP: Exploration. Metroidvania-styled specifically.
EA: GET OUT!
Game 138: Alpha Protocol
Want to feel like a secret agent? Want to play a game that feels like Deus Ex in gameplay but for some reason you can’t play Deus Ex? Well, Alpha Protocol may be the game for you.
Whenever I heard mention of this game it would always be talked about as a bad game that does a few things really well so that it can justify it being played. When it went on sale for $3 a couple of years back I couldn’t really say no, so I bought a copy and just recently got around to playing it. Turns out this is more of a really good game that happens to have some serious flaws.
Game 137: The Last of Us
It’s rare that I actually get to play a triple-A game so close to release. I never have the money for them, but luckily my friend did and we decided to do a run-through of the campaign of The Last of Us together. The next morning around 5 AM we had finished. We couldn’t put it down. It was so good.
However, when I say this game was so good, I really kinda mean the story was so good. The gameplay was pretty solid, but it definitely wasn’t the reason we kept playing. The game reminds me of Catherine in the way that working through the gameplay seems to reward you with the story without it seeming annoying. Often times it’s best to integrate the story into gameplay which some of the best games do, but this is one of those instances that not doing so worked. This game is distinct from Catherine though in that it doesn’t bring anything new to the table gameplay-wise.
The gameplay is a mix of third-person shooting and very Arkham Asylum-styled stealth, except that when you get spotted there’s no real means of escape. You just pull out your gun and start shooting. As someone who likes stealth gameplay it was a bit annoying. When I was forced into action, the insta-kill zombies became frustrating to deal with as well, but overall, those are the only gameplay bits that bugged me. The only gameplay bit that really stood out for me though was the stealth boss battle which was pretty awesome. I’ve never seen something like that before, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it existed elsewhere either.
So what made this game so engaging? The fact that the story is amazing with the juxtaposition of enjoyable gameplay to keep things interesting and varied adds up to an amazingly engrossing combination.
The plot is really what you came to this game for and the story really is fantastically presented with well done characters all doing what they can to survive in the zombie apocalypse. Some people have isolated themselves and rely on nobody else. Some build small communities to support each other. Some try to save all of humanity to bring back the sense of order that was once held. The game presents it all from the perspective of our two main characters, Joel and Ellie, as they make their way across America looking to do what they can to save everyone while simultaneously trying to keep themselves alive.
The arcs the characters go through are all really interesting travelling from location to location meeting new people both friendly and hostile. Even when not interacting with other people they meet along the way, Joel and Ellie make a really interesting pair of characters. Ellie is a fantastic companion although, again going back to gameplay, she really doesn’t seem to do much outside of murdering a few dudes for you. She’s not even an integral part of the stealth at all since enemies don’t even see her. It really highlights the disconnect between gameplay and story that much more.
Again though, that’s not why you play this game. You play it for the touching, gut-wrenching, compellingly beautiful story that ends in such a way to keep this game a subject of discussion for years to come. If that’s what you’re going for, then you’ve come to the right game. I recommend it highly and think Naughty Dog should be commended for this wonderful game. I want to see more out of you guys. Keep up the great work.
Game 136: Hotline Miami
What happens when you take the brutality and tension of the elevator scene from Drive, mash it together with tight controls, lightning pace, and die-fast-respawn-fast gameplay a-la Super Meat Boy then throw in aesthetics of a drug-induced haze in the 80s with an intense techno soundtrack? Considering how oddly specific that question is, the answer can’t really be anything but Hotline Miami.
This game is incredibly fun and rewarding and manages to characterize your character through that gameplay alone. You may spend quite some time planning out and learning the ins and outs of a level only to die yet again and say “fuck it” and recklessly rush through murdering everyone. And somehow that seems to work better a lot of the time. It really gives you the sense that you’re playing as an energetic ball of cocaine and murder running purely on instinct and makes the main character frightening even to the player.
Nothing makes this shine quite as much as the moments where you feel a true player-character disconnect that the game loves to toy with. The most common instance of this is at the end of every level. The game is very momentum based and draws you in with the demanding gameplay and blaring techno, but the instant you kill the last enemy in a level the music comes to a halt. When that happens, the only things keeping you motivated in the level are gone, but you need to go back to your car past all the bodies and blood and 16-bit gore and it really hits hard to see how much murder you have dealt. That’s in addition to the other moments that I would love to mention, but would also love to not spoil.
The game presents these moments, but doesn’t condemn them. It does ask you to consider them though, even directly asking you whether you like hurting people.
I want to keep talking about this game, but I feel there isn’t much more to talk about without spoiling this game’s best moments. The game is a very well polished indie game that I will no doubt play again in the future. It was a blast, somewhat thought-provoking, and I’m pretty excited to try out the sequel they’re working on.