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Monday, Feb 28, 2011
With hands covering eyes (though with fingers slightly parted), the Moving Pixels podcast travels down hallways painted in blood and visecra, in order to consider the beauty and grotesqueness of Dead Space and Dead Space 2.

Last week the Moving Pixels podcast crew took a look at Dead Space as a transmedia phenomenon, considering the films, comics, and other spin offs that the series has generated.


This week we look at the games themselves, considering their innovative design decisions and gameplay, alongside their grotesquerie and some of their choice in presentation of issues like work and women.


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Friday, Feb 25, 2011
Medal of Honor's campaign lacks many staples of a normal narrative, but it's still able to relate an apolitical theme through gameplay alone.

The rebooted Medal of Honor is supposed to be about the soldiers and not about the controversial Afghan war that serves as a backdrop for the action. The game was criticized for sticking to such a narrow subject matter; staying apolitical in this case seemed like a marketing gimmick meant to stir up just the right amount of controversy—enough to hype the game, but not enough to hurt sales. In retrospect however, after beating the single-player campaign, I’m confident in saying that this approach works for this game.


Tagged as: medal of honor
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Thursday, Feb 24, 2011
Like war in the Fallout universe, Super Mario never changes. The game may seem demanding or even harsh in terms of its skill requirements, but its rules are consistent in philosophy and practice.

As long-time readers know, it takes precious little to get me started on Super Mario analysis. Just as he expected, Jorge’s recent post on how 2D sidescrollers fail as multiplayer games (“Double Trouble: Flawed Multiplayer in Donkey Kong Country Returns, PopMatters, 20 January 2011) has inspired me to revisit one of my favorite game design topics: challenge. While I haven’t yet played Donkey Kong Country Returns, I have put a considerable (or ridiculous, depending on your interpretation) amount of time into New Super Mario Bros. Wii.


Despite its cartoonish exterior, NSMBW is a demanding game. This can lead to frustration, especially if players of unequal skill are playing together. The rhetoric embedded in the game’s rules and the philosophies of its creators argue that true success is something that the players actively obtain rather than passively achieve. From a historical perspective, NSMBW’s difficulty is in keeping with tradition, and this legacy is carried into its multiplayer mode. It then becomes understandable why the mode is frustrating; instead of minimizing differences between the players, it demands that weak players either rise above their limitations or rely on the stronger players to succeed. Frustrating as this may be, I argue that NSMBW comes by its challenge honestly and that a team’s failure in multiplayer is more a reflection on the team’s aggregate skill and cooperative dynamics than any inherent failing of the game’s systems.


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Thursday, Feb 24, 2011
Before the release of Dragon Age II, Rick Dakan reacquaints himself with the full spectrum of Dragon Age DLC -- resulting in a mixed response to the potential represented by them.

Only two weeks! Only two weeks until a new Bioware RPG comes out, and I can sink dozens of hours into another sprawling, epic narrative and then do it again for another dozens of hours so I can see what I missed the first time through. These are the games that I game for and even did the usually unthinkable for me: I pre-ordered the limited, special, fanboy edition of Dragon Age II. Despite it’s somewhat clunky combat and less than stunning animations, I loved the first Dragon Age, playing through the whole main game twice, including the massive Dragon Age: Awakenings mega-DLC pack both times. I’d also devoured the earlier small DLC additions, most of which added content to the core game. But then came Mass Effect 2 and other, alarmingly non-Bioware made games, and I lost track of my old friend.


But with just a month to go before new, Dragon-sequel goodness, I thought that I’d catch up on what I’ve missed since I last slipped that disk into my Xbox. I wanted to both reacquaint myself with the game and its story and stoke the fires of my own anticipation for the coming glories. And so I played them all, and now, depending on what your own preferences are, you don’t have to. In some cases, that’s my recommendation exactly.


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Wednesday, Feb 23, 2011
"Boy low and sell high," and other frightening necessities for profiteering on addiction.

Economies are based on need. Need leads to demand. And what can be more needful than addiction?


The historical and social context of economics simulator High Tea is pretty precisely clarified in its opening text, which describes the circumstances surrounding the game: “1830, Britain is in the grip of a mass addiction to a foreign drug. TEA!”


Tagged as: high tea, preloaded
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