Ni no Kuni is a game with heart and flaws in almost equal measure. It blends the JRPG tradition of tedious grinding and sprawling breadth with a whimsical cast of characters that breaks away from the traditional sulky brooding party of protagonists.
Resident Evil 6 is no horror game. It doesn’t have to be either. I might question why a product that abandons its roots clings to its namesake, but simply being unrecognizable is not reason enough to criticize something. What troubles me about Resident Evil 6 is that it does not even demonstrate competence in any of the directions it strains towards.
Horror and point-and-click adventure go hand in hand. You can change the proportions of how much each genre contributes to a finished product, but the fact remains that they are complimentary. From Resident Evil and Silent Hill in the past, to the Amnesias and Annas of today, the emphasis that point-and-click adventure places on slow careful exploration forces players to probe the objects of their unease.
Dishonored is the end result of a tremendous marriage of talent between Viktor Antonov, Harvey Smith, and the hardly tapped potential teeming at Arkane Studios. Arkane, until now, have had a limited capacity to prove themselves, releasing Arx Fatalis nearly 10 years ago and the excellent Dark Messiah of Might and Magic four years after that. Up until now they’ve mostly been involved in assisting in the design of other studios’ games. Nonetheless Dishonored is proof positive of the talent working at the studio. Meanwhile, Smith brings his experience from the original Deus Ex and System Shock, while Antonov brings a visually arresting art style to the table.
The ocean carries with it a sort of primal fear, one which is easily understandable. Humans fear the unknown, and the vast Oceans are terrestrial reminders of how much humankind has yet to chart. Sharks factor heavily into that fear, too.
When I completed my initial playthrough of Borderlands 2 back in September the game left me feeling conflicted. It addressed all of my criticisms of the first game, and yet I found myself climbing a mountain of frustration before completing it. Luckily I’ve had ample time to mull this one over.
There exists a bias towards originality, even if an original work isn’t very good. A bad game can often escape the full fury of critics and even come away with a bit of unusually enthusiastic praise if it’s sufficiently different. Conversely, a game which borrows heavily from other creative works will often take a particularly severe lashing for its lack of originality even if the borrowed elements themselves are well-recognized.
While Darksiders received a warm reception back in January of 2010, there seemed to be a caveat attached to the praise, as if it was good in spite of borrowing so heavily from the Zelda series. The game was a fluid hybrid of Kain’s or God of War‘s frenetic combat and Zelda‘s dungeon-crawling. Had it botched the execution of a well-worn formula, it would be an understandable thing to criticize it harshly. After all, when you’re building on such an established skeleton, failure becomes less excusable. But Darksiders polished everything it borrowed to mirror shine and stood out by adding unique flourishes rather than building something never before seen. It dusted off a few skeletons and put fresh meat on them.
Vigil is no more afraid of borrowing now than they were then, and they’re certainly no worse off for it.
Recent years have seen the tower defense genre branch off in new and exciting directions. While more traditional entries in the genre, like Defense Grid, hold a warm place in my heart the trend towards splicing hands-on action into the traditional TD has created a chimera of wonderful possibilities, and some might even argue that this hybridization is necessary to avoid stagnation. While it might have been rough around the edges, Defenders of Ardania demonstrated that there are other interesting ways to avoid the set-it-and-forget-it tedium which has long been associated with the genre without fully hybridizing, but I digress.
As much as video games have the capacity to deliver escapism and joy, very few seem to demonstrate a capacity for humor without the attempts coming off as forced or, even worse, flat. Portal is renowned for its genuinely hilarious writing as much as it is for its brilliant puzzle design, but it is also an exception. All too rare are games that elicit laughter, but Lollipop Chainsaw does that and more.