En Route to Zero

Last night I picked up and finished Act I of Kentucky Route Zero by Cardboard Computer, and just about every inch of its design satisfies my current appetite in video games.

Kentucky Route Zero, Weaver's House

Aesthetically, it’s a stunning game that reminds me of the stylistic work seen in both Team Fortress 2 and Limbo. It utilizes sharp lighting, silhouettes and limited color palettes to tell most of the story, while exaggerated geometry adds even more character to its society. It also manages to reference other forms of art, such as poetry and theatre, without interrupting itself as a game. Continue reading En Route to Zero

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Playlist 2012: The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead PS3 | Telltale Games | December

thewalkingdead-lee-clementine-train

One of the conversations my generation seems most ready to have is what they’d do in the event of a zombie apocalypse:

  • Whose house doubles as a good fort?
  • Which local store would have the best stockpile?
  • Whose car gets away the fastest?
  • What kind of weapons could we make from what’s sitting in the garage?
  • Who would you band with, and where would you all rendezvous?

It’s a fun game to play, partly because there are no right or wrong answers, but mostly because you get to learn something new about the people around you. The Walking Dead runs with these sorts of questions while putting the safety of others in the mix, making each subsequent one more complicated than the last. It tells an excellent story about people you could relate to, and not just for being a game.

Continue reading Playlist 2012: The Walking Dead

Playlist 2012: Dishonored

Dishonored PS3 | Arkane Studios | November

dishonored-home

This was once a great city.

Or at least there are signs of it. Across the river are what use to be people’s homes – homes that are now used to avoid thug infested alleys and a corrupt police force running the suburbs. You can even find paintings on what walls are still standing, mostly of people filling the streets of Dunwall or ships importing goods.

It’s calming though, isn’t it? I’d often climb up here for the view between missions, but every vista in Dunwall is just that: a vista. The city is actually overrun with a rat plague. Looks can be deceiving.

Continue reading Playlist 2012: Dishonored

Playlist 2012: Torchlight 2

Torchlight II PC | Runic Games | October

The amount of time you invest in Torchlight II is directly proportional to what you get out of it. Spend part of it exploring the landscape and you will find something worth your curiosity. A band of soldiers surviving together in the wilderness. A ghost ship docks by the riverside. A lonely robot who’s just happy that you didn’t rob him.

The hook of Torchlight II is partly within your curiosity.

Continue reading Playlist 2012: Torchlight 2

Playlist 2012: Sound Shapes

Sound Shapes PS3 | Queasy Games | September

Have you ever seen a speed-run of a video game? It becomes slightly musical at a point.

From a young age, I’ve always understood video games as an intersection between visuals and sound. Things run around on the screen until they run into something else, setting off some kind of alarm. It might be rewarding, penalizing, or warning you, but there is no denying its hidden rhythm. Somewhere between platforming, abstract art, content creation and music composition, Sound Shapes is a budding intersection between multiple forms of media as well.  Continue reading Playlist 2012: Sound Shapes

Playlist 2012: Papo & Yo

Papo & Yo PS3 | Minority Media | August

Papo y Yo

“To my mother, brothers and sisters with whom
I survived the monster in my father.”
-Vander Caballero, Creator of Papo & Yo

Papo & Yo takes place in a world that both exists and doesn’t exist. It’s filled with architecture and graffiti found in the slums of South America, but it employs them in ways that defy the laws of physics: stacks of dilapidated houses can bend to your will while harmless chalk drawings hide portals and staircases. A young boy’s dreams momentarily take him out of a harsh reality, but even dreams house traces of our real lives. Papo & Yo grounds surrealism to help craft one of the freshest environments I’ve seen in games this year, but also one of the saddest. Continue reading Playlist 2012: Papo & Yo

Playlist 2012: Home

Home PC | Benjamin Rivers | July

Home, by Benjamin Rivers

Home is a unique horror adventure set in a beautifully-realized pixel world. It’s a murder mystery with a twist—because you decide what ultimately happens.”
-Benjamin Rivers, Creator of Home

When I was in art school, an animation professor of mine spurred a discussion with our class about the difference between being intentionally ambiguous and just being confusing. Ambiguity in a narrative strongly suggests a number of finite conclusions to a situation, but we’re stripped of a key piece (or pieces) of information that would otherwise make said conclusion whole. For example, if I go to the kitchen and return with red stuff on my shirt, it could be tomato juice – it could also be blood. It’s ambiguous, and so is most of what you’ll discover in Benjamin Rivers’ Home. Continue reading Playlist 2012: Home