Sunday, June 30, 2013

What I'm Playing

I realize now, considering the amount of video game content I consume, this should really be its own category and, especially under the diametric tutelage of Zero Punctuation and Extra Credits, I'm beginning to appreciate interactive media as an art form more and more.

Here, in short, then, is a rundown of the games I've lately been playing (coinciding, notably, with a recent Humble Bundle.)

Awesomenauts: Selected as a vehicle through which to play co-op with the missus, Awesomenauts is mindless, if somewhat tepid, fun. Devoid, more or less, of any narrative worth or even mechanical innovation, the game's cartoonish art style, basic capture-the-flag mechanics and humor that seems to try a little too hard combine to create something akin to Super Smash Brothers on an enjoyability level, but devoid of even that simple game's sophistication. A stronger adherence to the 1980's cartoon aesthetic they were reaching towards might help negate some of the game's forgetability.

Capsized: Despite its simple premise and handful of inherent bugs, Capsized is a surprisingly rewarding experience. The bizarre textured art style is really separated from and complimented by the simple story; an astronaut crashes on a savage alien planet and must secure some means of escape for himself and his crew. With a startlingly sophisticated series of weapons and mechanics at your disposal, from jetpacks to gravity hooks to nanite technology, Capsized, while remaining inside its humble shell as a sidescrolling 2D platformer is ultimately better designed than you might imagine. Recommended.

Dear Esther: As contentious as this game was and as much of an experience as playing it really evolves into, I cannot say, unsurprisingly, that I enjoyed it. I won't go much further into detail than that (as I know the missus, who's currently playing, will doubtlessly read this), but while the game wasn't precisely my cup of tea, I'm absolutely fascinated by the prospect of taking games in this direction and would heartily encourage everyone to play it, to have their boundaries shaken somewhat. Recommended.

Thomas Was Alone: Probably my overall favorite of the four, Thomas Was Alone deeply, intuitively, profoundly understand minimalism, a virtue the mainstream video games industry sorely lacks. On top of beautiful UI, deceptively artistic design and wonderful voice acting, Thomas Was Alone, as its most impressive feature, a wedding of story and mechanics. That said, the personification the game manages to evoke from its incredibly lifeless characters is maybe even more astounding than that. All that said, the game's far from perfect – much of the game seems to be plotless puzzles, barricades between the player and the story and the story itself, frankly, dawdles in places it might not need to, but it's as innovative as one could hope and damn artistic in the process. Recommended.

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