Shooting a gun in a game is a simple action. You aim a cursor at a target and press a button to pull the virtual trigger. It’s a simple action, but when you look at a standard controller and all the buttons used for shooting, the action quickly gets complicated. Suddenly there’s a button for looking down the sights of the gun, for reloading the gun, for crouching, for switching guns, for activating a secondary function of the gun. Then, there’s all the complexities not linked to a button: knowing when to reload, how fast each gun reloads, how recoil affects your aim, that looking down the sights improves accuracy, that crouching improves accuracy, that moving decreases accuracy, that running prevents you from shooting, etc., etc. Seen this way, the modern shooter is actually a damned complicated beast.
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Tharsis is a brutally difficult roguelike of number crunching, risk management, and gambling that can be finished in a scant 20 minutes. The catch is that you’ll lose the game in those 20 minutes. And you’ll likely lose many, many games after that as well. In fact, based on the mixed reviews from critics and users on Steam, I’d wager that the overall win percentage of its player base is less than those of Splunky, The Binding of Isasc, FTL, Darkest Dungeon, etc. As a result, some of those people think that Tharsis is too hard, or broken, or unfair. I think it’s actually the perfect difficulty to keep things casual.
Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate loves the city of London, and it wants you to love it too. The Assassin’s Creed games have always excelled at creating virtual worlds that feel alive, stuffed to the brim with people going about their daily lives—relaxing, working, or having fun in period appropriate ways. However, the Assassin’s Creed games are also about climbing up buildings, running across rooftops, and parkouring your way through a city as if the ground was hot lava. It’s hard to appreciate all that impressive historical mundanity when the gameplay keeps pushing you up and away.
Some people really loved Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture. I didn’t, and a lot of my dislike stemmed from what I saw as bad design. This is a game that does everything it can to hinder your consumption of its story, even though its story was the only thing of interest to its players. As a first-person walker, Rapture is a story-driven game in a story-driven genre that fumbles every aspect of storytelling. I hated playing it so much that I think that hate has seeped into my interpretation of its themes. It’s a game that is stuck in my mind not because it’s so good, but because it seems, to me, to be one of the most cynical and nihilistic games ever made, one that embraces the awfulness of humanity and celebrates our untimely end.
Prune is an iOS game about trimming and shaping a bonsai tree as it grows, angling it out of the shade and into the sun, so that it can bloom. It’s a simple premise that gets wonderfully tricky at times, with your tree twisting around obstacles like a snake. What’s even more wonderful, though, is the wordless, visual storytelling that emphasizes hope, life, and the beauty of little victories against overwhelming darkness.