With the release of Dark Souls III, there’s been lots of talk about the series as a whole, its history and its impact, including how it’s frightening, how it’s funny, how it’s hard, how it’s not that hard, how it’s communal, how it’s isolationist, how its story is told, how its combat has evolved, how its design has evolved, how its popularity has evolved… lots of talk. But within all that, there’s one thing that I haven’t seen anyone touch on before: how oddly relaxing this type of game can be.
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Oxenfree is a Young Adult story about a girl named Alex, a group of her friends, and the supernatural entities they get involved with on a mysterious island. Like most mysterious islands, this one is an attractive hang out spot for teens looking to escape from their normal lives for a night, and what begins as a night of unsupervised drinking becomes something much more sinister and dangerous.
Prism (or more specifically, _Prism, note the underscore, in case you want to search for it on Google or on the App Store) is an iOS puzzle game that’s pretty dang good, but the most impressive thing about it is its art. The simple idea of geometric shapes floating in space is used to convey a strong sense of progression, culminating in a truly clever climax that’s also an anti-climax. The game gets to have its cake and eat it too. It’s subversive and expected, climactic and anti-climactic, a clever trick and a thoughtful lesson.
SUPERHOTLine Miami is exactly what it sounds like. Like Hotline Miami it is a bloody and brutal shooter played from a top-down view, and like SUPERHOT, one in which time only moves when you move.
The mash-up work brilliantly. It’s amazing how effective these two systems work together, which further proves the versatility of both shooting as a central mechanic and slow-motion as a central mechanic. Shooting has already proven itself, given the number and types of shooters out there, but slow motion, even though it has proven itself a memorable part of games like Max Payne, has never really caught on for some reason.
Previously, I praised the Tower of Fortune games for achieving the kind of balance “that’s easy to take for granted because when it works it’s not noticeable. We simply play the game and enjoy it, not questioning or realizing why it’s so enjoyable”.
The quickest way to notice that unnoticeable balance is to play a game that lacks that balance. In a sadly ironic twist, it was Tower of Fortune 3 that made me notice the quality of Tower of Fortune 2. This threequel once again expands the scope of the mechanics and the world, but this time all the changes feel driven by cynicism. Each new system feels designed to funnel you towards the real-money microtransactions, which are now more prevalent and prominent than ever before. Tower of Fortune 3 falls into the trap that the previous games deftly avoided: It feels like a Vegas slot machine.