Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Podcast: I'm sure you've probably already seen this, just in case you haven't, here is a link to the @Gamecritics GOTY podcast. It's a three-hour extravaganza that covers a wide variety of bests and worsts, so check it out if you need something to listen to. Accompanying that podcast is a collection of comments sent in by readers and listeners. In case you've ever wondered what we see when we ask people to send in their picks, here's a fresh slice!
Games: Moving on to games, I'd like to give a quick shout-out to an iOS title I just discovered yesterday, Blood Roofs. While I was a little hesitant to download something with such a stupid title (and it wasn't at all clear about what sort of game it actually was) the screenshots looked great and I was intrigued.
Once things got going, it turns out that Blood Roofs is an auto-run game similar to Temple Run or One Epic Knight. (Or Canabalt, if you go that way, although I've never found it to be as entertaining as most people tell me it is...)
The game begins with the main character swinging down and scooping up an injured damsel in distress into his arms. He's not saving the day entirely by himself, though. Since his hands are full, she has to be in charge of taking down enemies with her machine gun. This teamwork mechanic is interesting to me, and what's even more interesting is the creative interpretation of the genre that the developers took - the main character is apparently a quasi-vampire because his jumping ability is well into the ‘superhuman’ category. The player can also unlock a pair of bat wings which function as double-, triple- and quadruple-jumps.
The two characters take off across the rooftops of a fog-choked city, leaping from place to place while dodging horrors straight out of a Lovecraft novel. The level design still pushes the player forward at a rapid pace, but there are often multiple routes and the game is more about landing massive jumps than it is about split-second reflexes. Toss in some strategic power-ups and some nifty boss encounters, and Blood Roofs turned out to be one of the most interesting and exciting auto-run games I've seen in quite a while.
Games: I've been talking about this a lot on Twitter lately, but I'm going to make a strong effort to whittle down my backlog this year -- I know for a fact that half of the stuff in my stack is probably not good enough to spend a lot of time with, so I'm going to pick out some titles over the course of 2013 and start getting rid of stuff that I'm realistically never going to finish.
My concept is that I will pick something and devote at least one solid hour to it. If by the end of that hour I'm not interested enough to see more, then it goes in my ‘bye bye’ stack and I'll trade it in for credit towards something else. If it does seem interesting, then I will stick with it and finish. Not a very complex process, but finding the time for backlog games in between my review games is a bit of challenge.
The first game I picked out of the stack was the Journey Collector's Edition. This one was a cheat since I've already finished all three of the main games on the disc. I primarily got it because it was dirt cheap and because I was curious about the three minigames included. I checked them out, two were fairly interesting (one didn't seem very special at all) and I moved on. One backlog game down!
The next game I selected was Damnation on PS3. Without fail, *every single person* I've ever asked about this game said it was utter trash, but the box was so intriguing and the subject matter (Steampunk/Wild West/Civil War/Robots/Magic) was just too much up my alley to ignore. I think I got it for something like $4, and at the time that I picked it up, the clerk literally told me that I shouldn't buy it.
I told him it was for research purposes.
Anyway, I started it a couple of days ago, and what do you know... it's actually pretty good. The controls are a touch wonky, the shooting isn’t very precise and the graphics are certainly rough, but it greatly reminds me a lot of PS2-era Tomb Raider, or something like Galleon or Project Eden from the same general time period. There's a certain sensibility about it that we rarely see these days... the developers designed areas that were somewhat free to explore, objectives can be met in a number of ways, and there's very little handholding. A lot is left up to the player, generally, and I can see why it left so many reviewers (apparently) confused about how to approach it.
The core of the game is environmental exploration with strong vertical elements -- a lot of climbing, discovering routes up to high places, ziplining between enemy encampments, and so on. After skimming the reviews, it seems like most of the reviewers were expecting a Gears-style shooter and weren’t able to mentally process that the game was actually something else.
I’m currently trying to cook up some sort of article to go along with my experience with the game in contrast to how it was received in the reviews… unfortunately, its development house (Blue Omega) went out of business thanks to poor sales of Damnation, so tracking down people who worked on it has been a little more challenging than usual. Even so, I'm not giving up.
If you're a developer who worked on Damnation, if you know of a developer who worked on it, or if you think you know someone who might know someone, please got me a line and put me in touch with them. My spider sense is telling me there is a great story to be had here if I can find the right folks.
Games: Here’s a link offering a chance to ask @Swery65 a question about his upcoming Deadly Premonition Director’s Cut. He's an interesting guy and it's a really interesting game... give it a shot, you never know.
TV: The show Louie has been recommended to me by a fair number of people over the last few months, but I didn't have enough free time to get around to it until recently. The wife and I watched maybe eight or ten episodes over the last week, and I have to say, it's pretty brilliant stuff.
The writer/director/star/comedian Louie C.K. is pretty well known so I don't think I need to give much background on him, but his show isn't strictly the comedy that one might expect -- it's more like little slices of his real-life that are sometimes comical, but more often incredibly uncomfortable, awkward, embarrassing or painful. The thing that makes these so great is that they're so honest and real… I've experienced versions of some of his plots myself, and I know people in my real life who could easily be on the show.
If you're up for a little harsh, unflinching look at reality in addition to having a few laughs, Louie is getting it pretty right.