This game’s aesthetic is annoying. I mean, alright, it’s cute enough at first - you play a kid going to visit his mad scientist uncle, who has managed to trap himself in some kind of pocket dimension in his eccentric mansion and is unable to remember how. At least it’s the narrator that has amnesia this time, you might think cleverly. It becomes less cute when it degenerates into puzzle room, hallway with jokey dialogue, puzzle room (around hour two). Then the jokes start grating. Listen to the uncle make a crack about these kids and their crazy texting (“is English truly that difficult?”); wonder who the hell is laughing.
The puzzles are littered with sloppy decisions. I have a bunch written down, though they’re in the Million Dollar Google Doc, and that’s the kind of thing I only quote from in job interviews. Safe for work version: After the initial novelty of the dimension shifting wears off (45 minutes if you’ve never played a videogame before; 10 minutes if you’ve ever played “Portal”), each puzzle is just a room full of locks and keys that you’ve stuck into each other before.
Opening the Valve on a legitimate free-to-play game
To my left and right, I see hats. Hats everywhere. The gentlemen standing by my side are supposedly ready to make war, but it’s terribly hard to tell that from the various shades of bags, alien monsters, goggles and baseball caps adoring their noggins. In all honesty, this is what draws me to “Team Fortress 2.” This lighter take on warfare, set sometime in the ‘50s, is still boasting a huge following despite releasing as a part of the Orange Box almost five years ago. Why’s that, you ask? Last June, Valve released it to the public as a free-to-play game.
For the vast majority of hardcore gamers, free-to-play is seen as an incredibly dirty term. Any game that either adopts the model from the start or uses it later on in its lifespan is immediately considered a failure and is generally avoided like the plague. Most of this is based on the stigma that most free-to-play games generally have a pay-to-win philosophy: player doesn’t do as well as other players, player buys an uber gun for a fair price, and said player ends up topping the scoreboards with the blood money-bought gun. Another issue that can crop up is charging an exorbitant amount for new content, constricting the non-paying players to a few basic maps or character classes. Either way, free-to-play has left a bad taste in the mouths of gamers that truly want to earn their success. To them, paying for better weapons is trading skill gained over the course of committing yourself to a game for money. You’re purchasing hard-fought victories instead of dedicating the time and energy necessary to attain them normally.
Classic dungeon-romping gets an overhaul
The light slowly seeped into my cell, my eyes adjusting to its intrusion upon my unconsciousness. With the light came the intricate details of my surroundings: stone walls, stone ceilings, torch, barred door.
Well, fancy that. I was prison. In prison, with no knowledge of my previous crimes, and with a minotaur, an insectoid, and a lizardman, no less. After making our introductions (minotaurs are surprisingly pleasant, contrary to popular belief), we set about inspecting our new home. We gave every side of the cell a long look, running our fingers over the cracks, hoping for a secret passageway or a draft. As the minutes turned to hours, we became more desperate, to the point of even throwing ourselves against weak-looking section of the walls. Poor Riff broke part of his exoskeleton against a such unyielding segment, certain that the mortar was weaker in that section. Just as we were beginning to lose hope, a glint of lettering caught my eye right next to the door. I squinted against the heat from the torch nearby to read the charcoal-written message.
“Choose your fate: perish in this cell or pick up the torch,” declared the scrawled lettering. I raised an eyebrow. We weren’t given much of a choice, if you ask me. The others read the warning with keen interest. We glanced at each other, then to the torch.
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