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by Nick Dinicola

12 Aug 2011


From Dust easily fits into the category of “god game,” though ironically you don’t play as a godly being. You’re a supernatural being, certainly. More speifically, you’re The Breath that can control the elements in small quantities—but you’re far from godly, initially.

I make this claim based on how much of the challenge in From Dust stems from dealing with unintended consequences. You must constantly be aware of how your actions can set off a chain of events within the environment: You create a dirt bridge so some villagers can cross a ravine, then the vegetation grows across that bridge, then a volcano erupts, then the lava sets the vegetation on fire, and the fire burns all the way back to the village, and all the while, you’re watching those initial men and women run across the map on their way to create a new village.

by Nick Dinicola

5 Aug 2011


Half-Minute Hero: Super Mega Neo Climax is an effective parody of JRPGs. However, it’s also more than just a parody; it’s a full-fledged JRPG itself, one that falls into all the traps and tropes that it makes fun of and not in a clever wink-to-the-audience kind of way. The title says it all. “Super Mega Neo Climax” is obviously a joke at the expense of the often hyperbolic titles of Japanese shows, but at the same time being part of the title, this is how the game defines itself. It’s not just a parody, it is what it parodies; it’s quite literally a parody of itself.

by Nick Dinicola

29 Jul 2011


Bioware’s sequels don’t follow the usual path of video game sequels. Rather than going “bigger, better, and more badass” and upping the stakes, both Dragon Age II and Mass Effect 2 lower the stakes of the story, and all the attention that would normally have gone into crafting action scenes goes into crafting characters instead. Bioware’s sequels are inherently character driven, more so than their predecessors, and nowhere is this more obvious than in the climax of Mass Effect 2. The suicide mission is a love letter to the game’s characters, even as it kills them off.

by Nick Dinicola

22 Jul 2011


Child of Eden is a conflicted game. Stuck in a No Man’s Land between “shooter” and “spectacle,” it can’t decide which one it wants to be. The shooting distracts from the spectacle and the spectacle distracts from the shooting, making for a very schizophrenic experience. Granted, I’ve only played with a controller, and based on the writings of others, it seems like I’d get a very different experience playing with a Kinect. But the one thing that I can’t parse from all the praise is what difficulty people played on. It’s hard to believe that people had the wonderful experiences that they write about while playing on the Normal difficulty. The only other mode is the Feel Eden difficulty, which is essentially “god mode.” It makes sense that Child of Eden would be more fun with “god mode” but that also speaks to its most serious flaw: it’s a game best played when you can ignore everything that makes it a game.

by Nick Dinicola

15 Jul 2011


Conflict is key to a good story. That’s something I kept in mind as I played through Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 again. Because this time I wasn’t playing as a Player, I was merely seeking to enjoy some futuristic role-play or even as a Character, an idealized version of myself tasked with saving the galaxy. This time, I played as a Writer. It seemed as easy task at first since, as a fan of the franchise, I knew what choices get carried through to the sequel and what actions have what consequences. Over the course of the game, I purposely let bad things happen because that would lead to more conflict, which makes for a more interesting story. But gaming is a process of collaborative storytelling, and as I tried to write conflict into the story, I ran into conflict with my writing partner, Bioware.

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