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by Nick Dinicola

19 Oct 2012

Indie Horror Month continues with Home, a story-driven game that never tells the same story twice. Previous weeks highlighted The 4th Wall and Paranormal.

Home plays like a minimalistic adventure game. You’ll collect many items, and you can use some of those items with other things in the environment. There’s no inventory, and that’s a good thing since it would be unnecessary. Any text appears in a full screen textbox, making Home feel about as close as a graphical adventure could possibly get to becoming an actual text adventure. In fact, that comparison extends to its interactivity as well.

by Nick Dinicola

12 Oct 2012

Indie Horror Month continues this week with the still-in-development-but-still-really-good beta of Paranormal.

Paranormal is the gaming equivalent of Paranormal Activity: a found-footage ghost story. The two works actually complement each other quite well since the slow burn tension of the movie is the perfect primer for the game, which jumps right into the freaky stuff. You play as a man who suspects that his house is haunted, so he takes it upon himself to wander around at night to record the various weird things that happen. There are multiple pre-ordained hauntings that can happen in a room, but what you see at any given time is random. The fridge might burst open during one game but stay closed during another.

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.

//Mixed media

Tibet House's 30th Anniversary Benefit Concert Celebrated Philip Glass' 80th

// Notes from the Road

"Philip Glass, the artistic director of the Tibet House benefits, celebrated his 80th birthday at this year's annual benefit with performances from Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, Brittany Howard, Sufjan Stevens and more.

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