Monthly Archives: December 2012

Best of 2012: Journey

I have counted down my top three games that I played in 2012. Slender: The Eight Pages and the Walking Dead were number 3 and 2 respectively, but now without further ado I present to you the best game that I played in 2012, Journey.

Journey is PS3-exclusive downloadable title that was made by thatgamecompany (that’s literally their name). It was recently released on disc along with thatgamecompany’s other two games: Flow and Flower. Journey is unlike any video game I’ve ever played. It is the strongest argument for video games being art in video game history.

Journey begins with a robed creature sitting in the desert. The player gains control of this person and makes their way towards a mountain looming in the distance. The player finds a magical scarf that allows them to briefly jump and float. The goal of the game is to reach the mountain. Almost every level features a wall of symbols (similar to hieroglyphics) that shows the player brief cut-scenes that vaguely depict the history of the land the player is passing through. This back-story mirrors the journey of the player  appropriate each level. The story of Journey is essentially a minimalist approach to the heroic journey that video games have preference for telling (Legend of Zelda being the most notable example). However, despite the common use of this trope among other video games, Journey is anything but cliché. There are no words of dialogue, and no lines of text. The story is told entirely through imagery, and it is up to the player to fill in the details.

Whether it’s alone or with a complete stranger, the trek to the distant mountain is a deceptively simple story.

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Best of 2012: The Walking Dead

This week I’ll be counting down the top three games of 2012, leading up to choice for the best game released this year. Please keep in mind that I can’t talk about a game unless I’ve played it so if your favorite game is left out, then most likely I didn’t play it.

Based on the comic book series of the same name (which also inspired a TV show), Telltale Game’s The Walking Dead is one of the best written games of this year.  Released online in five episodes over a few months and now out on disc, the first “season” is a dark, thought-provoking drama. It’s a point and click adventure game. After this game, the genre might just be rising out of the grave (get it?).

The aesthetics evoke the comic book that the story is based on. It also stands out from the bigger Triple-A titles.

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Best of 2012: Slender: The Eight Pages

Starting this week I’ll be counting down the top three games of 2012, leading up to choice for the best game released this year. Please keep in mind that I can’t talk about a game unless I’ve played it so if your favorite game is left out, then most likely I didn’t play it.

Slender is an independent horror game that was released in June for the PC. There isn’t a better antithesis of the big-budget triple-A video game than Slender: The Eight Pages. Slender was not released so much as it was discovered. There was no marketing campaign, and it’s free. It’s a first-person horror game and a damn good one at that.

The player controls a young child in the middle of a forest at night. Visibility is very poor as a dense fog shrouds the forest. You have no weapons or items except for a flashlight, with a draining battery, that can be turned on and off. You can briefly sprint but the distance you can run lessens with use. Upon starting the game, the player is told to collect eight pages.

Each page offers little more than a cryptic message, the origins of which is unknown.

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Halo 4 Review

The most ambitious thing 343 industries does in Halo 4 is omitting the plasma rifle.  Just about every other aspect of the newest installment in the Halo saga is by-the-numbers. This is definitely a Halo game, but a very forgettable one. Let me iterate that this is by no means a terrible game, but much of what this game tries to do other Halo games have done better. The best aspects of  Halo 4 are held back by its blemishes resulting in a game that doesn’t have enough memorable moments to leave a lasting impression.

The campaign begins four years after the events of Halo 3, the Master Chief is awoken by his AI partner Cortana, the Chief fights his way through the ship to discover that it is orbiting an artificial planet. After crash landing, the Chief uncovers an ancient evil who plans to, you guessed it, try to take over the universe.  This ancient evil, referred to as the Didact, has little to offer the story as an antagonist. He is reminiscent of Harbinger from Mass Effect 2 (he even has the same voice actor) although he isn’t nearly as talkative. The Didact meets the bare minimum for driving the story forward. His motivations are better explained through the seven terminals scattered across the campaign, but unless you have a Xbox Live Gold account, you won’t be able to view them.

Cortana’s battle against ‘rampancy’ is easily the strongest aspect of Halo 4’s campaign.

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Moral Choices in Gaming

Having recently completed the 5th episode of Telltale Game’s The Walking Dead, I’ve spent  a lot of time thinking about the use of moral choices in the industry. In case you’re in the dark, the Walking Dead is a five-part episodic point-and-click adventure game that was released throughout this year. The player’s choices help shape the narrative and the game adapts to their decisions. It recently won the Game of the Year award at the VGAs and has been critically acclaimed for its quality writing. The Walking Dead fascinates me because it is both a triumphant example of morality in video games yet it fails to avoid the biggest pitfall that these type of games can make.

Almost every single game that features “moral choices” presents the player with a soul-crushing binary, presented in a system that provides feedback on your own actions. Games like Fable, Mass Effect and Infamous quantify morality by giving you Good or Evil points. This system is supposed to reinforce a player’s decisions yet it completely undermines them. Games that have a Good or Evil meter have already decided what is good and what is evil.  There is a moment in Mass Effect 2 where you have to decide between rewriting a race of rogue AIs or destroying them outright. Which of these options is good, which of them is evil? One of them removes free will while the other is a smaller form of ethnic cleansing. In situations like this, the words paragon, renegade, good or evil do not belong.

Red lightning or blue lightning? Damn, this is a tough one.

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