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by Eric Swain

15 Jan 2013

Who are you in an adventure game? Often you are presented with an identity that matches the world—a pirate, a detective, a college student, royalty—but that identity exists regardless of the actions you take in the game and how they define that character. What is it that you the player do in an adventure game? You break into places you aren’t suppose to be, you steal things, you combine your stolen goods with other stolen goods, and you generally get in everyone’s business, whether you’re wanted or not.

So, in the standard adventure game, who are you? A thief, a busy body, an interloper, and a problem solver. This is not an identity conducive with most of the professions and characteristics given to our avatar by the game [Maybe the detective?—Ed.]. Even if your actions exist in service to an overarching goal, it isn’t always apparent how the little things that we do get us closer to it.  We know that, as the player, everything will eventually lead to the goal, but the character shouldn’t.

by Eric Swain

19 Dec 2012

There’s a lot to like about Primordia, especially if you are a fan of point-and-click adventure games. There are many things it does right and the elements that detract from it are the common complaint against the genre. For me a point-and-click adventure game succeeds based off of two primary principles. First, how well does the game manage the common pitfalls of the genre: puzzle obtuseness, progress stifling and time wasting. And secondly, how well does the game present and integrate what its about into what I am doing?

That’s a more nuanced way of describing, ‘do I get stuck a lot’ and ‘is the story any good?’ In both regards Primordia feels like a giant step forward. A number of features improve the experience and allow the story to come more to the forefront with every puzzle having something to do with the world of characters within. There are no puzzles for sake of puzzles. But of all the features Primordia included the most interesting is the developer commentary you can activate in the options menu.

by Eric Swain

11 Dec 2012

I wasn’t enjoying myself. I really wanted to like the game, but I wasn’t enjoying myself. It doesn’t help that I know the both the lead developer and writer of the game. I sort of felt obligated to like it. But it just wasn’t happening. I feared Mark of the Ninja would end up like Papo & Yo, a game I completely respect and understand, but just don’t connect to.

I don’t know what it was about it either. The game controls are smooth and just the right kind of moody. The environments are richly detailed, complemented by a very unique art style, and the game and runs like a clockwork machine, every piece working together in sync. I loved the visual representations of non-visual elements like sound and smell auras. The very concept opens a whole world of possibilities for games to explore. The story wasn’t intrusive, but at the same time, I wish I could follow the scant details. I was ready to sigh and put it aside. Then it clicked.

by Eric Swain

27 Nov 2012

The Unfinished Swan is the story of an artist. The king has a magic paintbrush that brings to life anything that he paints. The world itself is his creation, and it is a very apt metaphor for the concept of the artist, a creator of worlds and ideas that brings these things into existence through his will and craft.

But we do not play as the King. We merely see the result of his work long after he abandoned it. We are interlopers in his world. We come along afterwards to see what he has wrought and discover who he was from his creations. We are given his background thanks to storybook pages found on the walls of his land, as if they are intended to serve as placards to pieces of art. We are walking through a museum exhibit of this world’s artist’s work. So what does it tell us about him?

by Eric Swain

13 Nov 2012

Papo & Yo was a critical darling that got a lot of attention in the past couple of months. It is the autobiographical story of the lead designer and how he survived the monster that lived inside his father. All of it is told through the allegorical lens of a child’s fantasy as he hides from his alcoholic father, which is here represented by a larger orange behemoth.

In addition to the more artistic aspirations of the game, there is a pretty solid game beneath these ideas. The mechanics and dynamics of the interactions work to foster a sort of paradoxically needy, yet toxic relationship between the boy and the monster. Everything works well together to create the artist’s singular vision of this very personal story. And it is because of all of that I feel like a complete ass when I say the game made me feel nothing at all.

//Mixed media

A Chat with José González at Newport Folk Festival

// Notes from the Road

"José González's sets during Newport Folk Festival weren't on his birthday (that is today) but each looked to be a special intimate performance.

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