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by Nick Dinicola

15 Feb 2013


Good characters can enliven even the worst of stories, and the one thing better than watching good characters is watching good characters interact with each other. One of the best things about any BioWare game is the emergent conversations between characters. But that kind of adaptable incidental dialogue seems (to me, at least) solely the domain of the RPG, a genre that’s partly defined by your acquisition of a rotating roster of characters. The action game, on the other hand, seems defined by its linearity—all the way down to your party members. Binary Domain switches things up ever-so-slightly by applying the idea of squad choice to a very traditional cover-based third person shooter and the result is something of a revelation: a linear action game that feels significantly affected by my decisions.

by Nick Dinicola

8 Feb 2013


All games are simulations. They use the cold, pure logic of mechanical systems to create warm emotional connections. It’s all a wonderful kind of manipulation, and when it works, it feels like magic. Journey is a great example of this kind of game, one that works its magic on the player whether we want it or not by reinforcing a certain thought process over and over again until the player unwittingly agrees to go along with it.

When I started Journey I didn’t want a cooperative experience: I actively avoided other people, I got angry at the mere sight of them, I didn’t want them solving my puzzles or showing me the way, yet by the end of the game I found myself chirping frantically for my lost companion, hoping he’d return.

by Nick Dinicola

1 Feb 2013


In my review of Ni no Kuni I wrote that its style was its substance, and I figured I’d expand on that idea here.

Ni no Kuni tells a very classic kind of fairy tale adventure. It speaks in archetypes: the pure, unshakable hero, the corrupted villain, the comic sidekick, the seedy yet trustworthy rouge, who bickers with the kind-hearted female companion, and so on.

by Nick Dinicola

25 Jan 2013


I thought I liked the ending of Mass Effect 3. While it wasn’t as great as it could have been, it’s not as bad as the controversy surrounding it made it seem. However, as more time passes, I find myself getting more and more upset with the game. In the time since I’ve beaten it, two pieces of DLC (the Extended Cut endings and Leviathan) have come out that significantly change the experience. There’s more plot, more mythology, more explanation about the things left hanging, and more importantly, story beats that I wasn’t made privy to initially. And that angers me. But when I really sit down and think about it, I don’t know why I’m angry. Yes, I’m missing out on content, but I was satisfied with the version of the game that I played. So, why do I still feel like I’m missing something? These pieces of DLC, regardless of how important they are to the plot and mythology of the series, are the equivalent of deleted scenes and alternate endings of a movie. I love deleted scenes and alternate endings but only as a curiosity, they don’t change my opinion of the movie itself. Yet the “deleted scenes” from Mass Effect 3 now have me questioning my original experience. So why do I care so much about deleted scenes and alternate endings in a game?

by Nick Dinicola

18 Jan 2013


Most racing games are based on a very linear system of progression that only moves us forwards. We’re forced to drive slow cars in the beginning, but this is never fun. The more that we race, the more opportunities we have to either upgrade our slow car or buy a new, faster car. These upgrades are necessary because our slow car can’t compete against the faster cars. That race is over before it even begins. We’re always upgrading our vehicles, we’re always getting faster and better toys, and at no point are we asked to go back to the slow cars.

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