A good menu can set the tone for the rest of the game to come. I’ve
written five times before, and thankfully I have reason to write about them again. Hopefully (and doubtfully), this won’t be the last time.
Latest Blog Posts
It’s hard to talk about “controls” in games. At its most reductive, the word is meant to be a description of movement and the ease with which you can “control” your character. But describing “controls” is about more than describing movement. It’s actually a word that describes a myriad of interacting systems and aesthetics. Controls are affected by art style, animation, sound effects, enemy AI, level design—things that change our physical movement and our perception of that physical movement.
It’s such a vast concept that it’s no wonder that we’ve settled into certain standards. It’s easy to say a game has bad or good controls when you’re just comparing those controls to a predefined standard. I’ve played a lot of games that the act of playing them has become second nature, and many of them have become so standardized in their style of play that I can’t actually remember the last time that I had to learn how to control a game. I don’t just mean learning what button does what or learning the timing of new attack animations, but learning an entirely new scheme of movement.
Chronicles: China is a small game relative to its franchise counterparts. It’s a 2D side-scroller, not an open world adventure, and priced at only $10, it presents itself as an even smaller package than its downloadable peers (China takes a lot of inspiration from Mark of the Ninja and that game is $15). Naturally, changes must be made to the typical Assassin’s Creed formula to fit it into this very different package, and China succeeds in this regarding its mechanics and systems (mainly by mimicking the mechanics and systems from the aforementioned Mark of the Ninja).
Yet, its narrative remains a sprawling adventure, an excuse to travel from historical locale to historical locale. It’s a narrative uniquely unsuited to the 2D side-scroller genre, and it’s interesting to watch the game bend over backwards as it tries to shove as much plot as it can between levels. China is an unfinished product, but only from a story standpoint. Its gameplay systems and art and level design are all quite well-done, but it’s clear that they were the priority. The story remains an outline that never got revised.
White Night is a striking game to look at. It’s all black and white with hard shadows to give shapes definition, like a Sin City panel come to life. At first, the game seems to contain the perfect combination of art and story.White Night is a tale in the tradition of noir, but about a haunted house. Its hard shadows hide the violent ghosts of an angry mother, and its light streams from the protective ghost of an innocent lover. It’s a beautiful and haunting game to look at, but it’s a rather annoying game to play. And it’s annoying largely due to its beautiful and haunting art.
In Dark Souls, you always knew when a boss was coming. The big bad was always behind a “fog door”, a wall of smoke that separated the boss arena from the rest of the level. It would automatically close behind you, locking you in, forcing you to fight or die. Fog doors became intimidating; they were warnings demanding your attention and respect, shouting at us “This way lies death!” Passing through the fog was not a decision to be taken lightly. Passing through the fog meant you were ready for a fight.