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Wednesday, Dec 1, 2010
Through its recreation of both a 1940s and 1950s setting, Mafia II is obviously a game with a retro vibe. Why then, am I reminded more of early 2000 when I play Joe's Adventures?

Like the previously released DLC for Mafia II, Jimmy’s Vendetta, Joe’s Adventures largely consists of a series of more “arcade-style” missions set in the open world of Empire Bay.  Also, like Jimmy’s Vendetta, most of these missions are only briefly backgrounded through textual introductions to mission objectives, mission objectives that mostly consist of perpetrating mayhem and violence in this fictional city that is the setting of Mafia II.


The extremely lean quality of the storytelling in that first DLC was very much to the game’s detriment, as Mafia II‘s strengths lie in its storytelling rather than in its fairly familiar third person shooting/driving gameplay.  Indeed, I have argued that the limitations of Mafia II‘s open world actually complemented its story in many ways by emphasizing the ordered qualities of the life of Mafia soldier, Vito Scaletta (Mafia II: the Boundaries of the Open World Experience”, PopMatters, 30 August 2010).


While many criticized the game for MAfia II‘s lack of “things to do” outside of the main storyline, in my mind Jimmy’s Vendetta laid bare the fact that side missions that may have been left on the cutting room floor to begin with may have been better left there.  With only a loose sense of plot provided by few cutscenes and the aforementioned text-based intros alongside a pretty bland protagonist, the game suffered from redundancy and a bland “arcadey” style (Mafia II: Jimmy’s Vendetta, PopMatters, 22 September 2010).  The game is more a series of side missions than a game interested in telling a story of any sort.


Tagged as: mafia ii
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Tuesday, Nov 30, 2010
I had free reign to corner and manipulate any man or woman that Verge had compiled a dossier on, but I'd only ever succeeded in capturing men. What could the reason for this be? And did my record of victims shape who Daily was for me?

Whatever else may be said about Beautiful Escape: Dungeoneer, it’s an experience that sticks with you. I don’t ascribe this to good writing so much as a great hook with tolerable writing supporting it, but if there is one area where the narrative and characterization grabbed me utterly, and put me at odds with the reviews for the game that I had encountered, it’s in the development of the character Daily.


Daily is your protagonist’s love interest, a callous and aloof dungeoneer at the head of the field. Daily plans to leave the conventional basement dungeon circuit—and Verge—behind in pursuit of higher forms of artistic cruelty. But at no point is this character referred to by pronoun, male or female; instead, the text uses Daily’s full name, even in dialogue when such use would become increasingly stilted. Verge keeps an assortment of photos from Daily’s “modeling days” on his desk, and the poses and clothing that Daily is shown in emphasize the character’s androgyny. So it was striking to me to be brought into the game by reviews (such as this one) that refer to Daily rather consistently in the feminine.


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Monday, Nov 29, 2010
Zombies are slow, and gunslingers are fast. Is that still formula enough for terror?

This week we seek to answer that age old question: is everything better with zombies?


Zombies have invaded Rockstar’s version of the Old West in Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare.  So, this week the Moving Pixels podcast crew consider the tweaked mechanics and otherworldly cast of this unexpected hybrid of genres.


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Wednesday, Nov 24, 2010
My well-honed Puritan work ethic is my own worst nightmare in a game like this.

A few weeks ago I extolled the virtue of the Fallout series as a “scrounging simulator” (Fallout, the Scrounging Simulator”, PopMatters, 27 October 2010).  A weird pleasure can be derived from these games just in poking through the ruins of a wasteland, finding material and evaluating its worth, locating junk to cobble together into useful weapons and apparel, and then bartering with other wasteland inhabitants to get what you really need.


While this odd “game within the games” measures your efficiency and encourages frugality and “traveling light”, it also, of course, strongly parallels the genre interests of the series as an experience of a post-apocalyptic world.  It successfully weds mechanics that promote what I experience as a strangely pleasurable activity with the story of a wasteland traveler.  However, while I enjoy this simulation of a conservative and frugal economics, there are other elements of simulation that Fallout provides that, while perhaps as seemingly authentic as a scrounging simulator, I derive far less pleasure from.


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Tuesday, Nov 23, 2010
If there is one truly unsettling element to this game, it isn't the torture sequences, but the dating sim parts that precede them.

Note: The grotesque subject matter of this game might be troubling for some readers. Please proceed with caution.


I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the Saw franchise—that is, I love reading about it, but cannot for the life of me watch it. This is a bit of a persistent problem for me. I’m a creepypasta addict as well, but when it comes to actual horror movies (or games), I find I don’t have particularly good tolerance for them.


So it is anyone’s guess why I downloaded Beautiful Escape: Dungeoneer, a recently released independent title made by Nicolau Chaud using RPG Maker 2003. The premise casts you roughly in the role of a would-be JigSaw, luring hapless victims back to your house so that you may stuff them in your basement dungeon. All sexual overtones that you might expect ensue. The specific goal of the game is to design your dungeon with a series of traps just torturous enough that your prisoner will escape within an inch of their life, so brutally maimed and traumatized that they’ll inevitably kill themselves—a “beautiful escape” comparable to a kind of sadomasochistic orgasm. Allowing them to survive with adequate health to call the cops results in a Game Over. Killing them in the course of the torture, on the other hand, is permissible, but it docks points from your score.


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