Updates every Thursday!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Pokemon Y

Genre: RPG

Developer: Game Freak

Publisher: Nintendo

System: Nintendo 3DS

According to this scientist guy, I live in a world filled with Pokemon. They come in every shape and size and it is my job to catch them and train them to fight so that I can prove I am the best Pokemon trainer in the world. We also love Pokemon and cherish the bond we share with them.

The scientist asks me my name. I tell him it’s Ash, which is actually more of an unfortunate coincidence than anything else. He asks me if I’m a boy or a girl. This is an odd question since he’s looking right at me, but I do have a sort of androgynous haircut and name so I spell it out for him. Then he asks me what I look like. Apparently he is also blind so I give him a brief description, letting him know I’m white, with darker hair in the style that all the boys wear these days. On my head is a red hat whether I like it or not and on that hat is a pair of sunglasses and that pair of sunglasses is a tree and that tree’s in a hole and that hole’s in the ground and the green grass grows all around.

And so begins my adventure. I try to leave home, but mom says I need to change out of my pajamas. Ugh, she just doesn’t understand that we kids don’t care how the world perceives us. I get changed and then I head out. One thing I notice almost immediately is that no one seems to mind if I just open up their front door, waltz into their house, and begin rummaging through their belongings. In fact, these locals seem to be more than willing to give me good advice on how to become a good Pokemon trainer. I must be in Canada.

So I head to the next town over, cuz that’s where I’m s’posed to go, which is about five feet away on a straight path and meet some new friends at the nearby coffee shop/Panini grill. They nickname me A-Meister. I don’t argue. That one big guy looks like he could just sit on me and it would all be over. “A-Meister is cool, guys. It’s cool.” They ask me if I’m into Pokemon, and I’m all like, well duh, that’s why I’m about to take my 13 year old ass and wander around the world. One of them offers to give me one to get me started. I’m a little nervous, but I take the fiery fox thing and start to head back home to say one last goodbye to my mother who I suspect I will never see again.

On my way out of town, one of my new friends stops me and says she wants to battle. Foolish little girl, you have a grass-type pokemon and I a fire-type. Game over.

Happy Thoughts: The graphics in Pokemon Y are really pretty. They finally stepped away from the original look and I love it!

Sad Thoughts: Pokemon has come a long way graphically, but the new controls can be a little fidgety since you can use the joystick thingie to move around. Sometimes I find myself getting stuck on walls. Also, since when does your first rival-like person use a pokemon with a type that’s weak compared to yours. I miss the good ol’ days when your rival’s main pokemon was literally designed to kick your ass.

The Bottom Line: Pokemon Y is a game about creating a character with limited options so you can wander into people’s houses. If you’re into that, you’re going to have fun.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Stanley Parable

Genre: Adventure, Indie

Developer: Galactic Cafe

Publisher: Galactic Cafe

System: Windows

I find that most video games aren't particularly invested in their story lines or, if they are, they tend to be pretty basic plotlines: the rise of a hero, the journey to find oneself, etc. The Stanley Parable is not like this. The Stanley Parable is, in fact, entirely story. To be honest there is barely any game to be played. All you can do is walk around and, occasionally, interact with some objects. One has to ponder if this should qualify as a video game at all or some kind of interactive art piece to be displayed in a gallery with a tiny plaque that that reads, "The Stanley Parable, Interactive Media," followed by a brief description of what the work is meant to represent and the overzealous use of the word "juxtaposition."

In The Stanley Parable we play the character Stanley, a man who works in a cubicle performing a tedious job where he follows the instructions on his computer to type various keys at specific times. He likes this job. Then one day he wakes up to discover everyone in his office has disappeared. We know this because the narrator tells us. Also, everyone has disappeared. The narrator then proceeds to tell us what Stanley does in order to try to locate his vanished comrades. This is where the game gets interesting.

OK, well, at first we're just wandering around a bland office building filled with desks, computers, coffee mugs, and papers. There are many doors, but they are always closed and locked with the exception of one in every room that is open and beckoning us to enter. But then we come to a room where there are two open doors, DUH DUH DUUUUUUUH! This is where the game gets interesting.

The narrator tells us that Stanley walks through the door to the left, because he knows that's where the conference room is and that happens to be where he's heading. This is where the true game begins. What if we don't want to go through the door to the left? Well, then I guess we're going to take the door to the right, which will lead us somewhere else and make the narrator a liar. This is where the game gets interesting.

I think I had to restart the game about five times before the ten minutes were up. Eventually, no matter which path we take, the narrator gives up and demands we start over again. This is where the game gets interesting.

You see, now we start over, but the story is slightly different. This time when we come to the room with two open doors, there are several open doors. And next time there will be no open doors, and the time after that there will be two open doors, but they may lead us to different places! I have never in my life felt more intrigued to wander around an empty office building listening to a pleasant British narrator, except for that one weekend I spent wandering around my office building listening to Steven Fry read books on tape and that never even happened.

The Stanley Parable is undoubtedly strange, but it does something I have never before witnessed in a videogame. It gives you the illusion of choice, but it is, in fact, allowing you to truly change the outcome of the game with your choices. So when you choose that other path, you are actively choosing to allow the game to bring you to an alternate ending as opposed to following what the narrator says every time, which I assume brings you to the "boring" ending. And even if you try to follow the same steps every time you restart, the game may force you to do something else, which makes you have to ponder if you are playing the game or, wait for it, if the game is playing you... Huh? Interesting, right?

Happy Thoughts: The Stanley Parable is lighthearted and has a good sense of humor.

Sad Thoughts: The graphics are pretty low-quality (though this doesn't really take away from the game) and if you're like me and have problems with motion sickness you may need to step away occasionally.

The Bottom Line: I actually bought this game by accident while trying to purchase it for a friend to whom I owed money. That same friend told me that I had made a good accidental purchase and, to give me an idea of what I was in for, mentioned that there is an achievement for not playing the game for four years. I think I was hooked before I even booted the game up for the first time. Unfortunately, I find the game so interesting that it may be a lot longer than four years before I get that achievement. But I am willing to bet that the game goes through an interesting change if you actually manage to wait that long to play it. It's just that kind of game.

Thursday, October 10, 2013


Genre: Finger-Tapping Adventure

Developer: Big Fish Games, Inc.

Publisher: Big Fish Games, Inc.

System: iWhatever

In a post-apocalyptic world of robots and trash a boy and his dog are constantly pestered by advertisements. Whether it’s a billboard for the local gas company or a nagging little button demanding that you buy the full version of the game you must press on through the muck to rescue man’s best friend from the evil fire hydrant that ate him. The first eight minutes are filled with intense finger-tapping, interactive environment, where you may click as many as five objects per screen! At the end of this trial run you can watch the intro all over again or replay the game. Don’t forget to buy the fullversion!

Zap aliens, move garbage, lose your dog, rate the game that you’ve only been playing for three minutes! It’s all here!

Happy Thoughts: This could probably be a fun game if I was willing to buy the full version. Also, the art is pretty neat!

Sad Thoughts: I don’t feel like the demo is quite enough to give me a strong grasp on the first ten minutes of the game. I feel like there are a whole two more minutes that will reveal the whole concept to me.

The Bottom Line: This is the kind of game that makes you realize how some children have racked up tens of thousands of dollars on their parent’s credit card using their iPhone. What’s worse is the game looks like it’s going to be free. It doesn’t really tell you it’s a demo. I dunno. Play it if you like this kind of game.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Don't Starve

Genre: Adventure, Indie, Simulation

Developer: Klei Entertainment

Publisher: Klei Entertainment

System: Windows, Mac, Linux

Day One, Morning:
I have been brought to the middle of a strange forest by a very tall man. It could also be possible that I am just very short. I really don’t know. He is like a game show host in his dapper pinstripe suit and slicked-back hair. He says I don’t look so good and leaves without even offering a hand. I get to work.

Day One, Midday:
It is very clear that I will need tools to survive. I gather up some materials and fashion a crude axe. Now I can shop down trees. The sun is as fleeting as the demon bunnies that run screaming for the safety of their dark holes. I have spent the better part of the day gathering berries, grass, and wood. Night has come too quickly.

Day One, Nighttime:
I have enough materials to build a small fire. It starts with just a little grass and a few twigs, but is soon roaring. Then it’s too much! Small patches of grass and nearby trees burst into flame revealing the area that was once blackened with shadows. I think it would be unwise to stray too far from the fire. There is something evil out there. I just haven’t quite discovered what.

Happy Thoughts: Don’t Starve is very fun to play, but it borrows heavily from Minecraft and other games of that sort. It’s like if Terraria and Tim Burton had a child.

Sad Thoughts: It’s hard to get moving quickly. I have had nothing to fight against in the early stages of the game, but I have a feeling that by the time I get to the point where I can fight things I will have invested so much time in playing that I won’t want to risk dying.

The Bottom Line: If you like survival games this will be fun.