11/27/2012 - Cryostasis

First-Person Shooters are really a dime a dozen these days, and including one might seem a bit odd to you, considering I'm trying to make this place as unique as possible. Rest assured, dear reader, this isn't simply another FPS. It takes the game quite a while to hand you a weapon at all, and when it does, they're often clunky and ineffective. This game isn't really an FPS at all, you see.

Rather, it's a lesson in how the first-person perspective can make a game more personal. For all intents and purposes, you might as well be playing as yourself, since you assume the role of a faceless, nameless protagonist. This has been done effectively many times over the years (see Half-Life, the recent Dishonored, and many more) but I'd argue that this really is the quintessential first-person, story driven, horror adventure.

This game is creepy. No question about it, there's a certain tension in the air at all times. Should your dog sprint past you in the corner of the field of your vision while you play, you will likely jump into the air several feet and possibly damage the ceiling; the stakes are THAT high.

Screenshot 1

The graphics are probably the game's biggest drawback: though they look nice, my expensive, hand-built PC nearly melted during some of the game's busier moments onscreen. There's really no excuse for it, other than poor system optimization on the developers' end.

That said, you get what you pay for. If you liked Bioshock, loved Amnesia, or simply are looking for an experience unlike anything else out there, give this "FPS" a shot.

11/13/2012 - Superbrothers: Sword and Scorcery EP

Superbrothers is the long-awaited PC port of a quirky iOS title released late last year. Taking the role of a lone wanderer of sorts, you attempt to save a realm from destruction. It's a traditional videogame premise, one done to death, so it's easy to wonder why, exactly, Superbrothers needs to exist.

Upon closer examination, however, Superbrothers reveals itself to be a send-up of the traditional adventure genre. The game maintains a tone that is firmly tongue-in-cheek and rewards best the player who approaches the entire experience as a self-aware joke. As a joke, in fact, it works very well. The humor is subtle, but resonates throughout the game, playing to gaming tropes as though its success depended on it. Screenshot 1 As a game, Superbrothers falters a bit. While initially fun, the puzzle-based gameplay wears thin quickly. If this game was longer than 4 hours, I'm not sure I'd be able to recommend it. But Superbrothers is short, which serves to its benefit. Puzzles never really evolve in terms of complexity, but the game's length prevents things from becoming boring. More interesting are the combat scenarios. Rather than present itself as a bloody, senseless, "kill something every five minutes"-o-rama, Superbrothers opts for sparse but memorable combat, very rythmic in terms of gameplay. This ties into its most interesting aspect: audiovisual presentation.

superbrothers screenshot 2
The combat screen is very minimalistic. Somehow, it works.

The soundtrack for Superbrothers was designed by a progressive rock musician named Jim Guthrie. The game, in fact, is the developers' interpretation of his music, the result of a cross-media collaboration. They nailed this aspect of the game. The music and primitive-but-artistic visuals perfectly capture the feel of each other.

Superbrothers' greatest achievement, then, is as an art project. But that doesn't mean it's not a joy to play through, if only to witness one of the more creative ideas to be found in recent memory.