As an experiential medium, it is often the little moments that mean so much in video games. This week we wrap up our discussion of gaming in 2010 by recapping some of the most emotionally affective and just plain cool moments in games like Red Dead Redemption, Bioshock 2, Amnesia, and Heavy Rain (to name just a few).
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Dead Rising 2 is really two games in one package; one is them is fun, and one of them is awful. Other games have suffered from similar unfocused flaws: Heavy Rain, Enslaved, and Fable 3 to name a few but at least those games knew what parts of their design worked best and emphasized them. Even at its best Dead Rising 2 never succeeds as well as it should.
The good game within Dead Rising 2 is a third-person adventure set in a zombie infested casino resort. The casinos are filled with wacky weapons, and the ability to combine items allows you to make even crazier contraptions. It’s just a joy to hack up the undead with knife gloves or a drill bucket. Personally, I find that saving survivors is the funniest part of the game since no one seems to have their priorities straight. A group of women won’t come with you unless you bribe them, the same goes for a man with a gambling addiction. Another guy won’t come until you help him rob half a dozen ATMs, and another women who got locked out of her room in her underwear won’t come until Chuck strips down to his skivvies as well. Their requests are ridiculous considering the circumstances but that makes them all the more entertaining.
Seventeen years after Donkey Kong swung through the trees and into our hearts in Donkey Kong Country, the lovable ape and Diddy, his similarly simian sidekick, have indeed returned. Donkey Kong Country Returns brings back the Nintendo icons replete with the colorful textures and joyful score, recreating the charm DK’s and Diddy’s first jovial romp. PopMatters own Arun Subramanian reviewed DKCR, giving it a well deserved eight out of ten. Notably absent from Subramanian’s review, however, is mention of DKCR’s two-player mode, in which one player controls DK while the other flits about as Diddy.
I absolutely adore most attempts at couch co-op. Many games are improved with a second player by your side, but Donkey Kong Country Returns is not one of them. When difficulty is a factor, cooperative gaming fundamentally alters a gaming experience and not always for the better.
I frequently complain about the “moral” choices that modern video games ask of players. I know that Mass Effect, Fable, and Bioshock are supposedly attempting to force us into interesting moral quandaries by offering binary choices to moral dilemmas. As I often say, this frequently comes down to what I view as bogus choices because of the extreme quality of the binaries laid before us. Save the baby or eat the baby? Boy, that’s a head scratcher.
No matter the actual state of our souls, most of us tend to view ourselves as basically decent human beings, and when faced with such extreme black and white choices (with little actual consequence built into the choice), most of tend to make “the right decision.” I imagine that even Adolf Hitler would have chosen to save (not harvest) the Little Sisters within the context of a video game like Bioshock.
Being the nose-to-the-grindstone academic that I am, I admittedly had no idea what I was seeing when a colleague invited me out to see Mamoru Hosoda’s Summer Wars this past Friday. I really should have known: it’s only the latest award-winning release from Madhouse, the Japanese animation studio responsible for The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (also by Hosoda) and all of Satoshi Kon’s work up until his death. But I digress. The movie is offbeat and quite enjoyable, and I would highly recommend it to any gamers with a thing for anime. Or Facebook, for that matter.
The film is a bit of a tossed salad where plot is concerned, but the central storyline is one in which a young math geek and part-time code monkey, Keiji, seeks to prove himself to classmate Natsuki’s extended family, with whom he is staying over the summer. Events naturally coalesce to give him the opportunity, when a viral super-AI called Love Machine is unleashed onto the web, vandalizing sites and shutting down network hubs to affect everyone from the teenage txter to the communications of entire governments.
What especially impressed me about the film’s depiction of a global network is the enhanced state of media convergence implied to have occurred by the story’s start. There’s a dramatic, almost corny sequence where we get a montage of global network users connecting wirelessly by their phones or DSis, which makes me seriously question the heretofore under-advertised wi-fi strength of the average Nintendo portable. Beyond that, we also have the climactic scene i which Natsuki stands challenging the Love Machine AI with her entire extended family linked in behind her. We get a glimpse of a four-generation household all clutching their various electronic devices, from game handhelds to GPSes, all logged in with their various network avatars as they prepare to sacrifice them for Natsuki and the greater good.