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by Nick Dinicola

5 Oct 2012


It’s that time of the year again, when horror becomes mainstream. To celebrate, I hereby dub October “Indie Horror Month,” and every Friday I’ll be highlighting a clever, unique, and most importantly scary independent horror game that might otherwise slip under your radar. You might already know about some of them (two of the four actually came out on Steam while I was waiting for October to arrive), but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re still interesting and still deserving of discussion.

I begin with the XBLIG and PC indie oddity, The 4th Wall.

by Nick Dinicola

28 Sep 2012


Gamers love a challenge, but more than that, we love a steady challenge. We love a game that starts off by being challenging and remains so throughout its five to ten to twenty to hundred hours of play. So, naturally, we love a game with a consistent difficulty curve, one that ramps up at a stable rate, never spiking and never slouching. But the problem with this kind of difficulty curve is that it’s so predictable. A game usually introduces us to all of its mechanics by the halfway point, and then spends its latter half simply throwing tougher and tougher opponents at us. It’s true for any genre or game. Call of Duty, Bayonetta, Dead Space, Need for Speed, Sleeping Dogs—by the time I’m halfway through (sometimes sooner), I’ve seen everything the game has to offer. 

Purely by coincidence, two recent games that I’ve played bucked this trend by introducing new mechanics—or at least new contexts for old mechanics—during their climatic final levels. Rather than petering out with an ending that I’m likely to forget in a few days, these games end with a bang earned through the introduction of something new. Not only did I remember these endings, I remember loving these endings. All games should strive to end on such high notes, to have our final memory together be a good memory.

by Nick Dinicola

21 Sep 2012


Driver: San Francisco has a story that shouldn’t work. It shouldn’t be interesting. It shouldn’t be compelling. It shouldn’t be as intriguing as it is. It should be boring. That’s because the game sets up a world in which our actions don’t matter.

The game takes place in the mind of John Tanner. While chasing Jericho, an escaped convict, he gets in a car accident that leaves him comatose. As he lies in the hospital, a nearby television reports the news, and that information seeps into his mind where we get to play as a kind of ghost-detective-driver. Tanner then tries to solve game’s big crime mystery, but there’s no escaping the fact that nothing he does really matters. He uses his ghost power to jump into the bodies of various citizens, helping them with their car related problems, but these people don’t actually exist. Nothing exists. Driver is a story without stakes, yet it still works.

by Nick Dinicola

14 Sep 2012


I liked Transformers: Fall of Cybertron but probably for very different reasons than most people. I’ve never seen the Transformers show. My only knowledge of the franchise comes from the Michael Bay movies, and those take place in a kind of alternate universe. Much of the hype and praise for the High Moon developed Transformers games stems from their attention to detail and canonical link to the original cartoon. So how do they appeal to those with no knowledge of the cartoon? As it turns out, Fall of Cybertron might work best as a standalone story. The less you know about Transformers in general, the more dramatic the game becomes.

Transformers: Fall of Cybertron tells a very somber tale. It’s a story about a civil war fueled by such unrelenting hate that it literally drains the planet of its energy, and even as the world falls apart around them, both sides desperately try to kill each other. What makes it so somber is its willingness to kill off major character on both sides of the conflict.

by Nick Dinicola

7 Sep 2012


After almost a year of ignoring the service (no thanks to the dashboard update), I finally went back to the Xbox Indie space to binge on demos and dollar games. There are quite a few excellent and interesting games there. Here are three of them that stood out.

Part 1 is here.
Part 2 is here.

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