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Wednesday, 22 August 2012 22:35

Quantum Conundrum'

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.

Published in Tekk
Wednesday, 15 August 2012 15:53

My empire of dirt

One man's decision to walk away from gaming

Some time ago, I contacted a friend of mine through the time-honored method of cellular text, inquiring if he'd like to partake in a match of 'Sins of a Solar Empire.' I was a little perplexed and intrigued when he responded with a very serious request for me to do something incredibly important for him, something that could very well define our friendship. With far more than a bit of curiosity, I agreed to hear him out, and he sent me one of the longest novels of text that I've ever received in this digital age.

My friend was incredibly upset with himself. He felt that he was wasting his life away whenever he played video games, that his need for entertainment was transcending his desire and ability to be creative. Whenever he immersed himself in a game for long periods of time, he would come out of the fog depressed and angry with himself for wasting so much time on something that wouldn't last. There was no way he could balance gaming with the rest of his life, and he felt that if he continued, he would wreck any possibility of being a productive member of society. In a move to distance himself from this kind of behavior, he asked me to keep him accountable and keep him away from video games.

Published in Tekk
Wednesday, 01 August 2012 16:35

Opening Pandora's Gearbox

No balance is good balance for Borderlands

Before I even start, let me say three words, just three words that will guarantee at least a curiosity in this article. You ready for this?

Rocket. Shooting. Shotgun.

No, you didn't read that wrong. This is only one of the many, many reasons that I absolutely and utterly love 'Borderlands.'

Why's that? Well for starters, just to describe it, you have to group in a whole bunch of awesome concepts from other games. 'Call of Duty' precision controls? Check. 'World of Warcraft'-esque flexible talent tree leveling system? Also check. Randomized loot that seems to pour out of chests, lockers and various enemies? Superbly executed check. And to top it all off, the vehicle driving scheme is modeled off of the greatest in the world: that of the Warthog from 'Halo.' Now throw this mixture of absolute awesome on a 'Mad Max'/'Fallout' wasteland planet, and you have 'Borderlands.'

Published in Tekk
Wednesday, 25 July 2012 16:09

Old-School Payne

Coming back to a classic

The pressure bore down on me like a lioness hunting for her cubs, relentless and cunning. I sat in a daze at my computer, $20 in credit for Steam in hand and a mind muddled by multiple shots of Mountain Dew. The Summer Sale was clamoring for my attention, the various sellers virtually leaning out of their stalls in an attempt to tempt me to pay them some modicum of focus. I hadn't seen this many $5 deals since I'd worked my gig at Wal-Mart. Then it hit me: I should find something I had played as a child and hadn't really had the intelligence to think through and fully understand. Cocky and precocious as I was, there was still so much lost on my adolescent mind, a sin that I had to redeem. If buying older games was holy, I was the Pope.

I sifted through the various offerings, feeling the overweight monkey of decision eating bon-bons on my back. 'Delta Force'? No, there are places even this grizzled gamer doesn't go anymore. 'Tachyon: The Fringe'? I hadn't piloted a starship in years. Perhaps 'Thief'? The steps to get it to work on a Windows 8 machine formed a rap sheet as long as my arm. It seemed my nostalgic quest had evaporated with the heat before it even had a chance to see the light roasting it into oblivion.

Published in Tekk
Wednesday, 18 July 2012 16:01

Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar'

EA and Bioware return to Britannia in new free-to-play RPG

FAIRFAX, Va. BioWare, a division of Electronic Arts Inc., recently announced 'Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar.' Expanding the legendary Ultima franchise, 'Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar' combines accessible action RPG gameplay with trademark BioWare storytelling, immersing both longtime fans and new gamers into the deep and engaging world of Britannia. 'Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar' will be available on both the iPad and PC later this year, with fully integrated, cross-platform play so gamers can experience all of the rich and deep RPG elements with friends, wherever and whenever they choose to play.

Published in Tekk
Wednesday, 11 July 2012 14:25

Spelunky'

'Spelunky' is a 2D jump-and-punch with randomly generated stages. You jump high enough that you can land one block higher than you started or grab onto an edge that's two blocks up. Your whip attack spans the length of a single block in front of you, and it doesn't hit above or below. Bombs and ropes, which must be stumbled upon and collected, allow you to twist the stage's layout to let you get where you want to go. The game is inspired by 1985's nail-hard 'Spelunker,' though the characters here move with a momentum much more like Mario's. Sprinting around with a rock and hucking it at an enemy is a kind of mechanic homage to shell-throwing in 'Super Mario World.'

That 'randomly generated stages' part is The Thing About 'Spelunky,' though. The game is about the precision with which each of its obstacles is designed, and the smooth way all of these obstacles click together in each stage. Every screen is a new puzzle, and the complexity that you can comfortably handle goes up as you learn the ways that the enemies and items all interact together.

Published in Tekk
Wednesday, 11 July 2012 14:18

Romantically Influenced

Best couples of the digital age

At the time of this writing, I'm getting married in two and a half days. Two and a half days until my inner bachelor dies a bitter death (but not before consuming a last meal of Hot Pockets and Ramen), so you'll have to forgive me, because romance is one of the only things on my brain right now. Romance, and the savory taste of pork-flavored Maruchan deadening the pain of the last few fleeting moments of being able to sniff-test the wearability of my laundry. Seeing as you're not going to get much out of me other than that, I've decided to put together a list of my favorite classic geeky couples.

Published in Tekk

I guess there's a certain novelty here if you're already the kind of guy who knows that a Charmander evolves at level 16 or that flying-type pokemon are invulnerable to ground-type attacks. Here are all the perfectly simple mechanics we fell in love with (?) in 1998, only now you have to move your Pikachu around on a grid and line him up to thundershock the Squirtle in question.

I guess most important is The Gimmick, which is that 'Pokemon Conquest' is a crossover between Pokemon and a mostly-Japanese series called 'Nobunaga's Ambition,' which is about a bunch of samurai trying to take over Japan. So, yes, 'Pokemon Conquest' takes place in an alternate feudal Japan where the samurai use Pokemon to do battle instead of swords.

Published in Tekk
Tuesday, 03 July 2012 17:11

A Choice From Hell

Alienate Newcomers or Longtime Fans?

Blizzard, I want to be completely up front with you here: I absolutely love your games. The amount of polish you apply to your games is legendary, and the sheer scale of the gameplay has always been incredibly accessible, yet is always paired with a Marianas Trench depth that takes hours upon hours to master. There's a good reason you have a fanbase that is bigger than most countries. You've created a national sport for Korea with 'Starcraft.'Basically, I'm not trying to toot your horn here, Blizzard (unless it gets me free stuff). The fact I'm trying to get across is that as an experienced game production company, you generally know what you're doing.

Except, perhaps, with 'Diablo III.'

Published in Tekk
Wednesday, 20 June 2012 17:09

Bastion of Storytelling

The Kid wrote an article...

It's a long-accepted fact that I have a thinly-spread attention span when it comes to gaming. I'm constantly bouncing between four or five games at any one time, so when you can actually lock me down with one game for more than an hour or two, you've accomplished a feat that few can actually lay claim to. In 2011, two games did this: one was the open-world opus known as 'Skyrim,' and number two was a little indie number called 'Bastion.'

Easily one of the most beautiful games I've ever had the privilege to play, 'Bastion' has a bright, light palette that disguises one of the most deeply-narrated stories you will ever be involved in. You're dropped into a world that has literally fallen out of the sky, with no backstory or driving force other than to move forward and seek out shelter and supplies.

Published in Tekk
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