Conflict is key to a good story. That’s something I kept in mind as I played through Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 again. Because this time I wasn’t playing as a Player, I was merely seeking to enjoy some futuristic role-play or even as a Character, an idealized version of myself tasked with saving the galaxy. This time, I played as a Writer. It seemed as easy task at first since, as a fan of the franchise, I knew what choices get carried through to the sequel and what actions have what consequences. Over the course of the game, I purposely let bad things happen because that would lead to more conflict, which makes for a more interesting story. But gaming is a process of collaborative storytelling, and as I tried to write conflict into the story, I ran into conflict with my writing partner, Bioware.
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When it comes to the Uncharted series, I’m a bit of a wet blanket. I’ve derided Nathan Drake as a more generic, murderous version of Indiana Jones. I’ve accused Uncharted 2 of inconsistent levels of freedom. I’ve even criticized them as potentially dangerous to the medium’s long term health. I say all of this not as attempt to demonstrate my sophistication or elitism, but rather to emphasize the unlikelihood of my next statement: I can’t wait to play Uncharted 3.
What is the cause of my sudden enthusiasm, you ask? Even though the game is almost universally renowned as the epitome of single-player games, it was the Uncharted 3 multiplayer beta that has turned me into a believer. Not only does the game incorporate and iterate on the competitive modes and rules of other shooters, it turns many of the aspects I see as weaknesses in the single-player game into strengths.
This post contains major spoilers for Shadows of the Damned
Three things nagged at me throughout my playthrough of Shadows of the Damned.
The first thing was an odd one. It was the name of Garcia Hotspur’s girlfriend, which is Paula. I guess that it is just the thin quality of the premise of the game (more on that later) that made me immediately associate her with the similarly named Pauline of Donkey Kong. Paula is abducted by a large monster at the opening of the game, hardly an original catalyst for a video game adventure (again, more on that in a moment), but still her name and predicament and blonde hair (the original versions of Pauline were blonde on the arcade cabinet of Donkey Kong) made me wonder if Suda51, aficionado of retro gaming, wasn’t giving a nod to “the original” girl abduction game. Throughout my time with Shadows of the Damned, I kept looking for any other evidence of such an allusion.
Okay, you probably won’t die too much in L.A. Noire, but there are a fair amount of corpses littered around Team Bondi’s recreation of L.A. in the 1940s for your investigatory consideration. Detective Cole Phelps is on the case for one of the biggest early releases of the year, and the Moving Pixels crew discusses how successful Team Bondi and Rockstar are at presenting this tough and tough-to-like hardboiled hero.
Recorded just about a week after the game’s release, much of our impressions of the game were fresh as we hashed out our initial impressions of this game that some claim is not quite a game.
Solar 2 is easy to compare to Flow, the PSN game from thatgamecompany because on the surface they look very much alike: You play as an object that flies around a 2D space trying to grow bigger. But this surface comparison ignores the more nuanced mechanics of Solar 2. This is a game that is just as much about creation as it is destruction. The endgame may be a black hole that consumes the entire universe, but to get to that point, you must build and nurture multiple solar systems full of life.