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by Nick Dinicola

1 Jun 2012


This discussion contains spoilers for Max Payne 3.

Max Payne 3 is an exciting shooter. The controls allow for some impressive precision. The options of choosing how to target enemies in “hard lock,” “soft lock,” and “free aim” modes separate shooting difficulty from enemy difficulty (which is a great idea that deserves its own blog post). The combat scenarios are varied and interesting. On the whole, it does everything that a good shooter should do, but it takes a very different road to get there. Call of Duty, Gears of War, and the rest are also exciting shooters, but their excitement stems from their sense of empowerment. Playing them is fun because it makes us feel stronger than we really are, capable of going toe-to-toe with an entire army and winning. The same can’t be said about Max Payne 3. Sure, you still go toe-to-toe with armies and win, but just barely. Max Payne 3 is not about empowerment.

by Nick Dinicola

25 May 2012


There’s a lot of bad exposition in games. Exposition itself isn’t a bad thing, sometimes it’s helpful and even necessary, but video games—with their need to create entire new worlds—constantly fall back on the bad habits of lazy execution: characters explaining things that they already understand or going off on a whole history lesson with the slightest provocation, purely for the sake of the player. It feels forced and leads to bad dialogue, since it’s hard to make an encyclopedia article sound like anything other than an encyclopedia article.

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings ends with a massive exposition dump between the protagonist Geralt and his antagonist Letho. This political thriller fantasy game involves dozens of character, all with their own motivations and secret plots, interacting with each other, playing off each other, using each other, and betraying each other. One conspiracy mastermind might just be a pawn in someone else’s larger conspiracy. It’s an incredibly complex web of character relations, and it’s all laid bare in the final conversation of the game: a climactic Q&A session. Some of it is forced—and horribly so—but for the most part The Witcher 2 excels at doling out large doses of information in a very short time. It does the exposition dump right.

by Nick Dinicola

18 May 2012


There have been three iterations of Alan Wake, even though there’s only been one canonical game. There’s the original Alan Wake, the downloadable content, and the downloadable Alan Wake’s American Nightmare (which is probably canonical, but we can’t be sure until a sequel comes out and confirms it since there’s a frame story that could render everything moot). Over these three games, Alan Wake has evolved in an appropriate way, acknowledging his faults and growing as a character, but what’s more interesting is how the mechanics have evolved with him.

by Nick Dinicola

11 May 2012


Recently, a fan of the Uncharted games edited together cut scenes and bits of gameplay to create a feature length movie of each game. Personally, this is something that I’ve always wanted to see since just watching the cut scenes in order didn’t present a coherent story.

Watching the three movies, I was surprised by my reaction to the third one. I think that Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is the best game in the series with the best character arcs, the best writing, and the best plot. Yet, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception was the most enjoyable movie of the three. Strangely, I found it more enjoyable for the one thing that’s always better in games than in movies: its combat.

by Nick Dinicola

4 May 2012


Fez is a easily the most personal puzzle game that I’ve ever played. It’s not personal because it “spoke to me” in any way, but because the biggest puzzle in Fez is figuring out what you know and what you don’t know. This is a puzzle game built around the idea that people’s minds all work differently.

The game, in my mind at least, is split into three layers:

The first layer is the perspective shifting puzzle. This is what you solve to progress in the game. In other words, basic exploration is built on this puzzle. You’ll find cube bits that make up full cubes that unlock doors to more hub worlds, and you can get through most of the game by focusing only on this first layer. However, the final cube bit is hidden behind a rather obtuse puzzle that is not apparent if you are only focusing on this first layer. In this way, Fez nudges you over the edge, down to the second layer of puzzles.

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The Vast Loneliness of 'No Man's Sky'

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