One More Continue http://onemorecontinue.com a tiny videogame blog Sun, 11 Jun 2017 22:13:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 http://onemorecontinue.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/cropped-omc-32x32.png One More Continue http://onemorecontinue.com 32 32 Sleeping Dogs: A Review http://onemorecontinue.com/sleeping-dogs-give-a-man-a-gun-and-he-thinks-hes-superman-give-a-man-two-and-he-thinks-hes-god/ http://onemorecontinue.com/sleeping-dogs-give-a-man-a-gun-and-he-thinks-hes-superman-give-a-man-two-and-he-thinks-hes-god/#respond Sun, 11 Jun 2017 22:13:27 +0000 http://onemorecontinue.com/?p=1155 Sleeping Dogs was sold to me as Infernal Affairs: the Game and as someone who loves Heroic Bloodshed, how could I say no? The story of the game follows the story of Wei Shen, a Hong Kong native who has returned from living in the United States for a long time. His job is to […]

The post Sleeping Dogs: A Review appeared first on One More Continue.

]]>

Sleeping Dogs was sold to me as Infernal Affairs: the Game and as someone who loves Heroic Bloodshed, how could I say no?

The story of the game follows the story of Wei Shen, a Hong Kong native who has returned from living in the United States for a long time. His job is to go undercover in the Sun On Yee triad and try to bring it down from the inside. Sleeping Dogs does its best to capture the back and forth between being a gangster and a cop as seen in Hong Kong movies such as Infernal Affairs and Hard Boiled both narratively and mechanically.

There are two leveling systems that work in parallel during the main missions – triad and police. During the course of the main missions, completing violent actions and being chaotic will score you more triad points. The police points start at maximum at the beginning of the mission and decrease by crashing into property, missing actions, killing civilians, and generally being a bad cop. This dual system encouraged me to play the game more carefully and thoughtfully than I would normally have. In GTA or Saints Row, I never cared what I blew up and whose grandmother I just ran over.

I didn’t have to play this way but since in Sleeping Dogs I am playing undercover cop Wei Shen, I felt a responsibility to at least try to be a good person and act accordingly.

The missions are almost all about you getting the trust of Triad higher-ups and are comprised of gang heists, chauffeuring people, and getting wedding cakes. At first, you start with relatively light mobster activities, such as threatening shop owners and beating up rivals. It doesn’t take long for the stakes to rise and Wei rises in the ranks from an outsider who some have a suspicion of being a rat to a Triad boss. Throughout this process, he has to balance his loyalty to the police force and the triads. Making things more complicated is the police captain who is perhaps more ruthless than the Triad bosses and Jackie, Wei’s childhood friend turned wannabe gangster who soon realizes that being a triad member isn’t as glamorous as advertised.

The game consists of the standard open-world type missions. There are side quests, races, challenges and the story missions. Combat is mostly hand to hand and has you flying around the area punching and kicking people in the face while dodging and counter-attacking when fists come flying at you. True to Hong Kong, there aren’t too many guns lying around the world but when you do get your hands on them, the game turns into a sort of cover shooter. Enemies try to flank you so you still want to keep moving which makes it more dynamic than it could have been. Vaulting over obstacles turns on bullet time for those adrenaline John Woo moments.

Combat is backed by a strong story element telling a story of an undercover cop that gets too close to the triads. Cliche, perhaps, but is executed quiet well. We see Wei struggle with his role, we see him care for Jackie, and we see him be torn about who he actually is. Over the course of the game, we get glimpses into Wei’s past life and how his mission might be grounded in a desire for revenge rather than being a good cop.

Most of the characters in the game are male although there are plenty of female characters relegated to secondary roles. Most of these are found in the romances in the game which end up being just a few dates before fizzling out, usually due to Wei’s reluctance to get attached. While the game doesn’t do much for equal representation, it does attempt to throw some stereotypes back into the face of our male protagonist. One of the girls, an American named Amanda, has “yellow fever” – something more commonly attributed to white men who fetishize Asian women. Another, a karaoke hostess named Tiffany, “cheats” on Wei and when you confront her about it, she points out the double standard you are trying to enforce on her. After all, at this point in the game, you have been on dates with other women since dating her.  If gangster men can have multiple women, why can’t gangster women have multiple men? She then storms off, leaving Wei a bit stunned.

Sleeping Dogs stays true to the movies which inspired it, which were almost all overwhelmingly male. Even when John Woo tried to be more representative and include a female character in Hard Boiled, she was still relegated to an almost background characters.

It is understandable since Heroic Bloodshed movies tend to focus on male relationships and were mostly made in the 1980s and early 1990s, a time when being more inclusive wasn’t really thought about. I like that Sleeping Dogs took inspiration from these films but I also feel they could have done a lot more to make it more compelling rather than playing it safe. It is solid for what it is, but could have been so much more. This isn’t limited to the female characters. Of all the characters, Jackie’s arch is probably the best told, although even that one falls into predictable cliche territory.

As a GTA clone, it is hard not to compare it to the ever popular Rockstar Games series. I have never been that drawn to the Grand Theft Auto series. They draw too much from Scorsese’s mobster films and try too hard to be a commentary on the deprived American culture. I can get on board with mobsters and commenting on depravity, but the mix of the two in Scorsese’s mobster works has always been off-putting. I am not sure I can put my finger on it, but I think it is because he spends so much time telling us things and showing us things that a lot of his works just seem over stuffed and poorly paced. On top of that, the unnecessary cursing and being more style over substance just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Martin Scorsese won an Oscar for The Departed which is a Hollywood remake of Infernal Affairs. Like The Departed, the GTA series tries hard to be edgy and provide commentary on American culture to the point it feels gratuitous and unnecessary, padding that adds no substance or value except perhaps to shock and tittilate. In comparison, Infernal Affairs and to a lesser extent Sleeping Dogs is more subdued, more intricate and more human.

This is accomplished by putting faith in the player/viewer to deduce relationships and tension between characters without being told over and over again what is happening.

There is a third part to the story here and that is of Wei, a Hong Kong Chinese who immigrated to San Francisco and who has now returned. We can see that it is a struggle for him in how he talks (only in English) even with other characters who only speak Cantonese. He is slowly adjusting to a culture he is not completely part of anymore and he stands out. When King, a music producer, comes over to Hong Kong to do business, Wei is tasked with showing him a good time. There are a few moments in this mission where I felt uneasy because Wei is a bit complacent with King’s attitude towards Hong Kong but this might be because Wei feels more American than Hong Konger.  The contrast between Wei and the others really highlight the extent of his Americanization and his fellow Triad members treat him accordingly. Over time, he comes to call Hong Kong home again but you never see him really fit in.

Ultimately, Sleeping Dogs communicates on multiple layers to the player – what do I do as a Triad? What do I do as a cop? What do I do as a person? – without beating it into you via exposition or other nonsense. Sure, you can explode your way through the game and enjoy the playground for what you want it to be, but there are moments in the game where there is so much going on if you want to stop and reflect.

Like the scene with Tiffany described above, we can choose how to respond and in what way. Do we let her go, do we shoot her? In the missions this is represented with the level system. Do we try to minimize the impact of our gang fight on the surrounding civilians and property or is winning the mission at all costs more important? If we don’t speak Cantonese, we have to rely on subtitles for a good part of the game and even Wei, who should understand some at least, according to his back story, doesn’t seem to catch everything. This is apparent in the scenes featuring Winston’s mother who speaks no English. Wei will sometimes scoff or act surprised at Chinese customs and traditions but praying at Buddhist shrines raises your max health. (I supposed they could do more with the duality of Hong Kong and China, but I may have missed it.)

There is a subtle duality of forces in this game that exist for those who stop and pay attention because it is not shoved into your face and I appreciate that. The game does much to improve on the open-world formula laid out all those years ago by GTA. Both the story-telling, the focus, and the mechanics are tighter, better, and more engaging. Still. it could have been more.

Recommended Reading:

Kevin Wong’s What Sleeping Dogs Gets So Right About Being An Asian American

 

 

 

The post Sleeping Dogs: A Review appeared first on One More Continue.

]]>
http://onemorecontinue.com/sleeping-dogs-give-a-man-a-gun-and-he-thinks-hes-superman-give-a-man-two-and-he-thinks-hes-god/feed/ 0
The Methodology Behind The Witness http://onemorecontinue.com/methodology-behind-the-witness/ http://onemorecontinue.com/methodology-behind-the-witness/#respond Mon, 01 May 2017 16:18:34 +0000 http://onemorecontinue.com/?p=1131 Much has been said about The Witness’s ability to teach the player how to solve its puzzles. In designing the puzzles, Jonathan Blow worked from simple to complex, and while the game is arguably genius in how it teaches the player, the methodological ideas behind it were defined 70 years ago. In school, most of […]

The post The Methodology Behind The Witness appeared first on One More Continue.

]]>

Much has been said about The Witness’s ability to teach the player how to solve its puzzles. In designing the puzzles, Jonathan Blow worked from simple to complex, and while the game is arguably genius in how it teaches the player, the methodological ideas behind it were defined 70 years ago.

In school, most of us probably “learned” by memorizing things. Facts, people, dates, rules, formulas – these were all presented to us as “important” and we had to remember them for some type of test or exam. How many of those things do you still remember? Chances are, you forgot them once you finished the test. Not only did we not see the relevance or the skills being taught, they were mainly being taught by reading and lecturing. These are hardly effect learning methods for most people but we knew we needed to know this stuff for a test so we studied. By studied, it means we memorized and then, after the test, we didn’t need this information before. We got the grades, but did it really reflect what we learned?

Bloom’s Taxonomy

Someone tried to change that. In 1956, Benjamin Bloom developed a taxonomy to promote different styles of learning besides rote memorization. It has been through some slight variations over time but still provides an effective guide for teachers in effectively presenting material to their students.

By using the principles of Bloom’s Taxonomy in the classroom, teachers try to add dimension and guidance in new subject matter. Rather than providing the information and hoping that the students will remember it, teachers can use the different verb groups to develop activities which should help enforce the subject matter in multiple ways. This should encourage a multi-faceted approach to teaching, where material is presented in many different ways to connect with as many different students as possible.

For teachers, Bloom’s Taxonomy is usually presented as a wheel. To use the wheel, you start at knowledge, pick a verb or two (this is what students will do) and a product (this is what the students will produce) and then design the lessons around that.

In teaching, we do not have to “hit” all six parts of the taxonomy, but we need to get around the wheel in chunks that build upon the foundation built in the previous chunk.

(For a more in-depth example, please see this table, taken from UNC Charlotte’s Center for Teaching and Learning)

 

So how does this apply to The Witness? The tutorial puzzles are all simple enough that, with some experimentation, we are able to solve them. In doing so, we remember the rules in solving them until we get to another puzzle that seems to go against what we have learned. But we use what we learn to solve the next one and then proceed.

From left to right, we see gradual increase in puzzle complexity, each variation building on the one that came before.

  • First, we are presented with a simple puzzle type with one rule that we can solve easily. From this point, we can recognize the puzzle panels and remember how to solve them (drawing a line)  – Knowledge
  • Second, we are presented with variations of the puzzle. We can explain how to solve them, even if we haven’t figured out the specifics for the puzzle. – Comprehension
  • Third, we can use what we have learned to solve other puzzles of the same or similar type. – Application
  • Fourth, we can analyze new puzzles and using the knowledge we have gained from previous ones (because they build on each other) we can learn the new rules. – Analysis
  • Fifth, we can use what we have learned to solve puzzles that combine different elements on the same panel. – Synthesis
  • Sixth, we learn to recognize the pattern to the world outside of the panels. – Evaluation

When the solutions are presented, we see same patterns require different solutions. In the final puzzle panel, we need to isolate the black squares instead of the the white ones.

The Witness cycles through these stages for each new type of puzzle we come across, building upon the foundation of puzzles that came before. In introducing new puzzle elements, The Witness will often end the tutorial sections with a puzzle that are designed to ensure that the player has understood the concept. In the example pictured above, the last panel’s endpoint is placed to make the puzzle seem much harder despite the dots having the same pattern. Instead of thinking of the puzzle as “contain the white dots”, it is solved by “containing” the black ones. It might not make much sense when I describe it, but the act of doing will hopefully make it clearer.

These types of quick review are known as CCQs, or Concept Checking Questions, in teaching. The purpose is to get the student to demonstrate that they have been learned what they were supposed to before going on to the next lesson. A good CCQ will push the student to provide an answer that enables the teacher to interpret whether the concepts taught in the lesson were grasped or not. Therefore, a teacher should not ask a student “Did you understand this?” because the student can just say “yes” and we can’t check that they actually do. The Witness accomplishes this by giving us a puzzle panel that is just a little bit off – as an example, the exit could be placed in a different spot in an otherwise identical puzzle – that can only be solved if the player actually learned what they were supposed to.

As a whole, they attempt to lead the player through understanding until they acquire enough knowledge to properly synthesize everything they have learned and apply them to the final puzzles deep within the mountain.

The infamous final puzzle is the culmination of all this knowledge and practice that came before. Under timed pressure, the player has to quickly complete 5 rudimentary puzzles, one of which they will have to memorize. Then, they will need to quickly deduce which of three sets of three puzzles have solutions  (the other 2 most likely aren’t). After that, they will need do complete the task again but also recall the layout of the puzzle they did at the beginning, lest they lose time. Finally, they will have to complete the hardest puzzles of all, where the grid has been wrapped around a column.

Just about everything you have done puzzle wise is necessary to either reach or solve that one final puzzle. The final stage, synthesis, I loosely prescribe to recognizing the panel puzzles in the natural world, with the ever so gentle push of the simple puzzle at the top of the mountain. We take what we have been taught and step outside the box so to speak and apply it to the rest of the game world.

Am I Dumb if I Didn’t Learn The Witness?

If you thought that The Witness’s puzzles were too hard and that the game did not teach you anything, you might this that this whole piece is trash. Maybe it is, but let’s consider Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences. Gardner proposed that people have seven distinct intelligences which dictate learning, memory, remembering, and understanding. These are visual-spatial, bodily-kinaesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, linguistic, and logical-mathematical.

In a classroom, material and media are broadly categorized as visual, text, sound, motion, and realia. It may seem hard to cater to all different intelligences when teaching a subject, but through the different media, the hope is that teachers are able to convey information and foster thinking through all of them.

The Witness is a little hard to classify since it is a videogame. It is both visual but at the same time the panels and the world construct a certain faux-realia. Additionally, the panel puzzles appear to be all catering to a mathematical-logical intelligence, even the sound ones. The shadow panels and others which are dependent on viewing angles suggest a more kineasthetic learning intelligence, albeit virtual. The puzzles in The Witness then really only fit into two types – mathematical-logical(the panel puzzles) and visual-spatial (the black obelisk puzzles and shadow puzzles). This does not open the game up to many different intelligences.

Remember the wheel? There is one important variable that is missing from game – product. If the product of the teaching is the solution to the puzzles, then The Witness does not do enough to challenge us in creating a range of different products with our new-found knowledge.

Does it Matter How The Witness Teaches If It Isn’t Good at Teaching?

The teaching that happens here is almost overwhelmingly directed at specific learner intelligences, for better or worse, with a single abstract product. In short, the game teaches players one thing very well within a narrow scope. (This mostly applies to the mechanics and actual playing of the game. Taken from a broader perspective as a whole, the game is really a great lesson in meditation and perspective, but perhaps that is for another post.)

The problem with educational games, in my experience, is that they do not use the medium to the fullest – they barely even get a quarter of the way. In games, we have an opportunity to present material in diverse and interesting ways. Yet, educational games tend to be just normal videogames with an “educational” layer on top of them. Oregon Trail doesn’t teach players about Manifest Destiny or the push for the West. Instead, we learn that fording rivers is hard.

In the end, The Witness does follow a well-developed pedagogical methodology for teaching and challenging the player without any form of instruction. Hopefully, this can serve as an inspiration for some truly educational games which actually try to teach.

 

The post The Methodology Behind The Witness appeared first on One More Continue.

]]>
http://onemorecontinue.com/methodology-behind-the-witness/feed/ 0
Games Can’t Portray Addiction Right http://onemorecontinue.com/games-addiction-right/ http://onemorecontinue.com/games-addiction-right/#respond Sun, 09 Apr 2017 20:30:05 +0000 http://onemorecontinue.com/?p=977 “This will be the last cigarette I ever smoke” is something I tell myself about once a week after I finish a pack. It doesn’t take more than a few hours before I have a new pack sitting in front of me. —  Going out for a cigarette has become a habit that I do […]

The post Games Can’t Portray Addiction Right appeared first on One More Continue.

]]>
“This will be the last cigarette I ever smoke” is something I tell myself about once a week after I finish a pack. It doesn’t take more than a few hours before I have a new pack sitting in front of me. —  Going out for a cigarette has become a habit that I do without thinking. Whether it is after a meal, as a way to punctuate a job well done on a work task, or that one last cigarette at night, smoking has become part of my daily routine. It is as natural as eating, sleeping, and going to the bathroom.

To describe the craving of a cigarette to someone to who doesn’t smoke is difficult. I suppose it may be different for everyone, but I get mildly anxious – like when you don’t remember if you turned the stove off before you left the house. No matter how much I try to put it in the back of my mind, after a while I find myself downstairs at the corner tobacco shop buying cigarettes and milk or something. The “or something” is more an excuse than anything, since I don’t want to tell myself that I came here just to buy cigarettes that I don’t want to smoke (but feel that I need to).

I do want to quit, really. I no longer feel cool doing it, and most of the time I don’t even enjoy it. Sitting in a cafe drinking fancy coffee and having a cigarette is nice, but sitting on my balcony in zero degree weather just because some part of my mind is telling me that I have to smoke is not. And since I have built up a tolerance, I sometimes smoke two cigarettes each smoke break rather than one. I don’t want to say that I struggle with tobacco addiction because I don’t want to compare myself to others who have more severe addictions to more dangerous substances. I know tobacco is dangerous but it is usually a slow burn to the grave rather than a gas fire. The negative effects tend to creep up on you and you don’t notice them until it feels too late. It has been on my mind a lot recently since I am trying to develop a habit of not smoking unless I enjoy it, and I have been failing spectacularly. I have been thinking about how, or if, videogames can portray the kind of boring, everyday addiction that I have to tobacco.

In videogames, drugs are usually presented as bad but useful things. Examples of this that I can think of are the plasmids in Bioshock or Jet (and the other chems) in Fallout. Plasmids give you superpowers that you use to mow down people, Splicers, who have become addicted and twisted by their use. There is dark irony behind using drugs to fight drug addicts, but the plasmids are just an excuse to fit super powers into the world they have created. Yet the player character does not become addicted, nor do they suffer from the use of the drug – at least not mechanically.

In Fallout, all of the drugs have a positive effect but if you take one enough you can become addicted. This results in  negative status effects if you go too long without the drug in your system. I suppose I can relate, as I get cranky or frustrated if I go too long without a cigarette. That nagging feeling that I need one always in the back of my head can get to me, yet I feel that Fallout does not do enough to really force the player to confront their addiction. Status effect penalties can be offset with good gear, for example, and the player is still always in control. What’s more, to get rid of an addiction in later Fallout games, you can just go to the doctor and give them some money. If that worked in real life, I would do that. I have tried chewing nicotine gum and it doesn’t work. From experience, if I have just enough money for lunch or for a pack of cigarettes, I will choose the cigarettes. Even if I am not smoking, I feel more comfortable knowing I have easy access to cigarettes. This makes it almost easier for me to not smoke if I have cigarettes than when I don’t. But Fallout doesn’t simulate this need for the player.

In “Magic and Mushrooms: What Happens When Video Games Take Drugs Seriously?“, Alex Epstein (Narrative Director of We Happy Few) says:

“It’s hard to do (realistic drug depiction) in games. Addiction represents losing control of yourself. Gamers hate that.”

If I could control my cravings, I wouldn’t be leaving my apartment at 1 in the morning to buy a pack of cigarettes just so I could have one smoke before I went to bed. For a game to really simulate addiction, it has to remove control from the player to make the character do things that someone who is addicted would do. This means having the game become harder or frustrating the more the player plays unless they perform the action. In Fallout, the character could be forced to spend money on the chem they are addicted to instead of what they wanted to buy or the player character could be forced to go find more chems instead of whatever quest they are on. The irony of Fallout 4’s addiction is that you can take a drug to cure your drug addiction.

In this light, I feel that Far Cry 2 and the player character’s malaria come pretty close to adequately depicting addiction. At somewhat random parts of the game you have to stop what you are doing and take a malaria pill. The screen goes kind of funky and you can’t run or jump or shoot back. If you don’t take medicine you fall over and pass out, only to wake up later in a church. To get medicine for the malaria, you have to do optional side-missions. They are not required but by not doing them, you will be even more inconvenienced by malarial attacks.

So we have a condition that you have to do something you don’t want to do (getting malaria pills) and if you don’t do it, your actual gaming experience will be worse. I imagine most players would make sure to go out of their way to always have the pills on hand. Much like how I go out of my way to ensure I have a pack of cigarettes on hand. It is not a superficial change like a gentle negative stat modifier which makes the compulsion stronger. The Far Cry wiki describes it pretty well:

“Malaria in Far Cry 2 was met with much criticism from players, as the random attacks frequently interrupted gameplay at bad times (such as during combat), and players felt forced to do the Underground side missions as the medicine prevents the character from passing out.”

The key to representing addiction is not just taking control away from the player but inconveniencing the player so much so that they will go out of the way to deal with it. It feels just like those times when I decide my route to work depending on whether it has a tobacconist along it or not. Of course, basing a whole game around this would be very challenging. Alex Epstein continues:

” I would love to see a game where your character is an alcoholic. Then, a certain number of times, when you go behind a bar, you wake up in a ditch with half your money gone. Then you say, ‘Oh, shit! I shouldn’t have gone by that bar.’ Now you’re thinking like an alcoholic.”

Games are pretty bad at displaying what it is like being addicted to something, of course, because there is that whole control thing. Drugs are either a stand-in for magic or included as something bad and “edgy”. They often portray addicts as junkies that are OK to kill or ignore which is problematic.

Most of us are addicted to something, whether it is cigarettes, coffee, certain foods, or videogames themselves. Stories tend to focus on extreme consequences of hardcore addiction but not so much on the day to day. Games, being the special medium they are, can probably do a better job of that but if we are all already addicted to something, is there a point?

I used to work in a liquor store in University and there was one regular that came in every day after work and bought a flask of vodka and a pack of Camels. Every single day. When I saw him enter the store, I prepped his things for him, thinking I was doing a good job at customer service. When my boss saw me to this he took me aside after the customer left. “You can’t do that. I know you think you are doing a good thing but you are acknowledging that he has a problem.”

Maybe having games accurately portray addiction would require us to look into the mirror just a little too much. My parents both used to get on my case about smoking. Cancer is almost a common thing in my family, as are heart problems. I know all these things but the knowledge doesn’t help. If a game portrayed addiction accurately, it wouldn’t affect me – I know I have a problem and I don’t need to be reminded of it. But, it might help those people who don’t smoke to feel, even just a little, how hard it is to stop.

Cigarettes smoked while writing this post: 5

The post Games Can’t Portray Addiction Right appeared first on One More Continue.

]]>
http://onemorecontinue.com/games-addiction-right/feed/ 0
Tharsis: Gambling in Space http://onemorecontinue.com/tharsis-gambling-in-space/ http://onemorecontinue.com/tharsis-gambling-in-space/#respond Sun, 19 Mar 2017 15:58:56 +0000 http://onemorecontinue.com/?p=1104 You barely fixed the life support module in time. The air is getting thing. Through a window, you see a never ending stream of debris floating through space. You know that the debris is coming from the ship. This is no longer a return trip. “Houston, we have a problem” is an understatement in a […]

The post Tharsis: Gambling in Space appeared first on One More Continue.

]]>

You barely fixed the life support module in time. The air is getting thing. Through a window, you see a never ending stream of debris floating through space. You know that the debris is coming from the ship. This is no longer a return trip.

“Houston, we have a problem” is an understatement in a game where you might need to eat your pilot.

The game puts the player in charge of recovering a space mission gone horribly wrong. You have to manage the remaining crew to repair sections of the ship while also providing enough food and energy to survive to the next turn. Every turn brings more hazards that will damage your crew and ship or make it harder to survive the next turn.

Everything is done by rolling dice. Tharsis is, in some ways, a complicated version of Yahtzee. You have a few rolls to get the numbers you need. Some numbers will hurt you and others will be unusable but there is almost always something you can use the dice for. Though it isn’t always what you need. The number of dice is dependent on the health of your crew, which needs to be maintained either through food or through medicine. And when the food runs out, it’s time to eat your friends.

To survive till the end, you will need to learn to properly manage your crew and balance the risk and reward in how you use your dice. Ineffective risk management will end in failure. Each turn forces you to evaluate which modules need attention, how much time you really have until the ship explodes, and the chances of rolling the numbers you need. In addition to that, you need to keep your crew fed and hopeful. If they start starving and feeling stressed, you will have a bad time.

The secret to winning is knowing that luck can’t be controlled, but it can be influenced. On the surface, Tharsis looks like a game completely up to chance. But because of its multiple uses for dice and the different modules, every action has a potential benefit and consequence. Survival is based on taking calculated risks with the probability of rolling the dice you need. Can your ship take a point of extra damage this turn in return for more food for the crew? And would it even be worth it? There aren’t ever any sure good choices, but there are bad choices and worse choices.

The short game sessions made it easy to learn the risk management skills needed to reach the end. Each survived turn is an achievement. It is very nice to have such a short but rewarding experience you can jump into for short bursts of time. Even if it means eating your colleagues.

The post Tharsis: Gambling in Space appeared first on One More Continue.

]]>
http://onemorecontinue.com/tharsis-gambling-in-space/feed/ 0
Hearthstone Sheds Poor Design Decisions with Year of the Mammoth http://onemorecontinue.com/year-of-the-mammoth-hearthstone-design/ http://onemorecontinue.com/year-of-the-mammoth-hearthstone-design/#respond Mon, 20 Feb 2017 00:22:02 +0000 http://onemorecontinue.com/?p=1081 Hearthstone has never seemed to really have a coherent design to it, often resulting in knee-jerk nerfs that take almost too long to ever come out. I have been playing Hearthstone on and off since before official release and almost since then, the meta has favored one clear deck over the others. There have always […]

The post Hearthstone Sheds Poor Design Decisions with Year of the Mammoth appeared first on One More Continue.

]]>
Hearthstone has never seemed to really have a coherent design to it, often resulting in knee-jerk nerfs that take almost too long to ever come out. I have been playing Hearthstone on and off since before official release and almost since then, the meta has favored one clear deck over the others. There have always been a low number of viable decks but from those few there has always been one that is clearly better than the others. Often this is due to bad card design – not because the cards are bad or grossly over-powered (although sometimes they are!) but because not enough consideration was made in how this card will work with others.

The most egregious example of this was Patron Warrior – a deck based around a 3/3 that spawned a copy of itself if it survived damage – and Warsong Commander – a card that enabled all those 3/3s to attack when they normally weren’t supposed to. This decklist was strong because the Warrior class had enough cards that synergy really well with this combo – such as frothing berserker – and no other classes had a way to consistently deal with it.

Even when Blizzard makes a card that is intended for pure fun and not competitive, it can backfire. This happened with Yogg-Sauron. Yogg is a complete random card that often results in disastrously hilarious results but somehow the card still remained effective for the highest tiers of Hearthstone play. The resulting nerf, or change to make the card less powerful, also made it less fun to play because the card’s effect would rarely play out in full.

With the new announcement for the “Year of the Mammoth“, Blizzard is changing up Hearthstone quite a bit. The biggest change is moving cards in the Classic set – the core set of Hearthstone cards that were intended to be evergreen, i.e. never rotate out. Some of these cards have become staples, not only in certain decks, but also of Hearthstone. For people who have been platying from the beginning, Ragnaros and Sylvans (both being rotated out of Standard) were iconic legendaries that you hoped you would get in your next pack. These cards single-handledly turned the game around and for new players were both frustrating to face and drove them to continue playing in the hopes of every getting one of them. These cards perfectly symbpoloized what a legendary was meant to be.

However, even back then they were really strong. As new sets came out and adventures were released, legendary cards were a mixed bag. For every over powered and must have for a deck (such as Dr. Boom) there are tens of either too situational, less optimized, or just downright terrible legendaries. For a lot of them, it isn’t that they are bad but when compared to other, often less rare, cards their effects do not stack up. This is why cards such as Azure Drake were often included in decks that didn’t need the extra spell damage. Blizzard has created cards that fit into every deck and make it hard to find reasons to include others in the mana curve.

Their response is to take Classic cards and effectively retire them to what they are calling the “Hall of Fame” but in reality it is just removing them from standard. I have often felt that new cards in Hearthstone have been lacking at best or are extreme reactions to a certain deck archetype at worst. Part of the problem is that there just isn’t enough cards, or rather, aa large amount of cards are filler. Of course, TCGs need filler cards in them but when your basic card pool is small (compared to a lot of other card games) and a lot of your cards are weak, it makes it easy to create over powered cards without intending to do so.

The changes coming up in the next year seem to try to address this. The Classic cards being rotated out are to make way for other cards that could potentially be game breaking if paired with Sylvanas, for example. It should also make choosing cards more decision based. It also seems like Blizzard is going to be releasing more cards than they used to next year, with 3 130 card expansions. These changes will hopefully give us a more diverse meta game.

But I can’t help but look at this through the lens of their past blunders. There have always been cards that were auto-included – Dr. Boom, Shredder, Belcher – and unless they change their design philosophy (or actually formulate one as some would say) I have a hard time seeing them accomplish this. If they keep releasing garbage like their Rager cards, Hearthstone will fall into the same trap it always has.

Ultimately, I feel it comes down to the division between the creators wanting Hearthstone to be casual and the players wanting it to be competitive. It adds an extra layer of complexity where fun cards that are not optimized get thrown to the curb by t he players. No one likes losing and even at the lower tiers you will face people playing netdecks – even in casual mode. The end result is a bunch of cards that only get used as placeholders until the players can get the cards they really need, and a large number of cards that get overlooked.

Hopefully these changes will improve the game. It looks like Blizzard is trying to slow it down by reducing burst and removing cost-effective powerful cards. Their past card design decisions have limited their ability to maintain a compelling game and we will see if they have learned something with the Year of the Mammoth.

The post Hearthstone Sheds Poor Design Decisions with Year of the Mammoth appeared first on One More Continue.

]]>
http://onemorecontinue.com/year-of-the-mammoth-hearthstone-design/feed/ 0
Thea: The Awakening Review http://onemorecontinue.com/thea-the-awakening-review/ http://onemorecontinue.com/thea-the-awakening-review/#respond Sun, 12 Feb 2017 20:12:41 +0000 http://onemorecontinue.com/?p=1074 Once upon a time, someone had an idea to combine as many different types of games as possible and make it work- so now we have Thea. Videogame genres are usually pretty loose and hard to define but we usually have the vocabulary to describe, at the very least, surface concepts of a game. In […]

The post Thea: The Awakening Review appeared first on One More Continue.

]]>

Once upon a time, someone had an idea to combine as many different types of games as possible and make it work- so now we have Thea. Videogame genres are usually pretty loose and hard to define but we usually have the vocabulary to describe, at the very least, surface concepts of a game. In that context, Thea is impossible to describe – part card game, part survival roguelike, part 4x, part resource management, part choose your own adventure, and part RPG.

You have one base, your home village, and you can’t expand to any further locations. This means that the majority of the game will be spent sending out search parties to do quests, kill monsters, and gather materials to bring back to your village where your craftsmen will turn them into food and equipment.

Thea has my favorite crafting system I have seen so far in a game. Where most game will have recipes where specific materials create specific things Thea makes it more interesting. For example, every recipe has 3 components – a primary, a secondary, and a catalyst (wood, coal, etc.) and there is only one recipe for each kind of equipment. To get different types of equipment, with different stats, you need to choose different primary and secondary materials. This fluid crafting system makes it so you almost always have something to make if you need it, even if it is not the best. Also, it makes the crafting system something to explore, finding out which materials create what kinds of equipment.

It is important to maintain good equipment, because the world of Thea is inhospitable. Spider, goblins, orcs, and worse roam the world. To fight these creatures, and to pass what would normally be skill checks in traditional role playing games, you need to win a card game. Each person in your village or scouting party’s equipment and stats determine what abilities their card will have. The card game takes some time getting used to as the presentation and rules are not immediately clear. Also, to really be effective at it, you either need to have the numbers (more villagers) or varied equipment to make sure you have enough abilities on the cards for each situation. Late game, especially in the Return of Giants section, you will need to focus on both to defeat the late game enemies.

There is a lot here that comes together well but makes it hard to really manage everything as you survive through the turns. Somehow you have to balance multiple things with a handful of villagers in a brutal world. The game is punishing and while there is always a chance to come back from a set back, it can be hard to find the motivation to do so sometimes. It can take a lot of turns to get back to where you were after your main party was wiped. This can happen from underestimating enemies, but also from the random events which pop up rather frequently.

These are all narrated by the same person, giving the impression that the story of Thea is being told to you as if someone was reading you a book. Sometimes, these events can force you into fights that you are completely unprepared for. The game doesn’t always give you enough information to assess the situation.

The one design decision I really did not understand was the god progression. The story of the game is that you are a god who has lost most of their powers and they have to guide the remaining worshipers (your village) to restore the world as it was before the great cataclysmic event that made you lose your powers. At the beginning of the game, you choose which god you want to be. Each god grants your villagers some starting benefits to stats and that is all well and good. However, some gods are locked at the beginning of the game and only get unlocked as you play. Each god also has 5 levels that are increased via experience that is accumulated based on your points at the end of the game.

The game rewards players for time spent playing but this does not fit well with the type of game Thea is. A game can take anywhere from 100-400 turns and the score progression is slow. Difficulty can be modified in detail which will add a multiplier to the final score but even fiddling with difficulty settings will not expedite the process. The bummer here is that while Thea’s world is interesting and challenging, it can only go so far. You will eventually start clicking through the random events because you have seen them before and auto resolving a lot of the challenges. This makes unlocking the other gods and their abilities a tedious exercise as the enjoyment of the game and its content doesn’t have enough volume to sink hundreds of hours into it just to get some extra bonuses.

It is a cheap way to get people to stay engaged with the game even though the game itself should be reason enough.  And it is. Thea is a truly unique experience that will push some people away. It will take some dedication to get into thanks to the multiple mechanics. The Slavic mythology inspired world that doesn’t take itself seriously and the vast number of surprises kept me going. Even after 110 hours played, I came across things I hasn’t seen before when a routine adventure gave me a choice that I had never seen before and I ended up recruiting a ghost.

Thea combines a lot of things we are familiar and mixes them together into a truly unique experience. It’s a patchwork quilt of games most will be familiar with but the patches bring the weaknesses with them. The inventory management will bog you down, like it does in many RPGs, the “just one more turn” will become mindless clicks as you just wait for the next big thing to just like in other 4x turn based strategy games. For a game with so much on offer, it gets predictable relatively quickly. I definitely felt like I got more than enough of my money’s worth, but Thea still wanted me to stay around longer than I felt I needed to.

But one day, I am sure I will return to this world and try to save it from darkness again.

The post Thea: The Awakening Review appeared first on One More Continue.

]]>
http://onemorecontinue.com/thea-the-awakening-review/feed/ 0
Rymdresa lulls you into a trance before blasting you to bits http://onemorecontinue.com/rymdresa-trance-blasting-to-bits-review/ http://onemorecontinue.com/rymdresa-trance-blasting-to-bits-review/#respond Sun, 05 Feb 2017 15:20:22 +0000 http://onemorecontinue.com/?p=1052 Relaxing space music fills my ears as I drift across the cosmos collecting stars, exploring wonders, and gathering resources to rebuild Earth. Here, space is serene and filled with bits of poetry waxing poetic about a lonely existence, rebirth, death, and life. Playing Rymdresa is not far from a zen-like experience, until an asteroid shoots […]

The post Rymdresa lulls you into a trance before blasting you to bits appeared first on One More Continue.

]]>

Relaxing space music fills my ears as I drift across the cosmos collecting stars, exploring wonders, and gathering resources to rebuild Earth. Here, space is serene and filled with bits of poetry waxing poetic about a lonely existence, rebirth, death, and life. Playing Rymdresa is not far from a zen-like experience, until an asteroid shoots across your vision and blows you to bits.

The worst was when I had carefully accrued 1500 resources, the maximum I could carry, to bring back to Earth. I had gotten lucky by exploring far reaches of space and had stumbled upon a huge asteroid belt with resources seemingly for the taking. I was even rewarded with a special protective bubble shield. I was carefully making my way home, looking forward to unlocking the next chapter with my haul. I decided to stop by a planet and investigate it, as I needed more resources to reach Earth. I was rewarded with a poem and the text -200 Space points, -200 Resources. I only had 144 resources at the time, so I blew up.

That’s Rymdresa, a game which is relaxing and zen-like and then suddenly cruel.

Of course, after I died, I remembered that I had an item which could open a wormhole and take me straight home.

Combining an exploration game with permadeath is both good and bad. Without the danger, the game would be boring as there is not enough to the exploration part to really keep you going. On the other hand, it makes the game much more demanding which contrasts with the aesthetic it tries to build. It is hard to relax when a stray asteroid or an unlucky quest can end it for you right then and there.

You have a ship and you fly around on a 2D plane to other flat objects – planets, abandoned space ships, junk, and anomalies – and press a button to open up a quest. Sometimes you find stuff, sometimes you lose stuff, sometimes you just die. It can be hard to see just how fast you are going since sometimes the background stars and planets do not move very fast. Your engines also take a while to do something, which means it is usually safer to almost float around than go full steam ahead.

The game isn’t terribly clear though. You have a sentry which points you towards where you have to go, but not all the time. Later in the game, you can unlock a map of the zones around you – different coloured and named areas of space – but it is not clear what each zone means. Is purple better than blue? The game tells you that each zone has certain elements that it specializes in but I haven’t been able to figure it out. There is also something called a legacy bonus which I don’t think was explained very well, but from what I gather, is a number that increases with each run and that can unlock a bonus for one specific run only. With how prevalent and fast death can be, legacy bonuses are a high risk/high reward mechanic like many other aspects of the game.

The quests which give you a choice are also completely up to chance, I think. There is one where you explore a planet but your spaceship fails and starts to crash. You can either go at it manually or trust the autopilot but I have chosen different answers multiple times with different outcomes. In games like The Banner Saga, I don’t mind this at all because it builds an interesting story but Rymdresa doesn’t have enough there for me to forgive that.

To help players along and give them a reason to play, Rymdresa also keeps continuity between runs. You get to keep your items, research,  and resources gathered (except in the first chapter) and your pilot accrues experience by collecting stars which unlocks abilities. At the beginning of a run, you can use your space points to purchase bigger, better ships, although they only last for one run. These space points act like currency so once you use them to get a ship you will need to earn them back if you want the ship for the next run.Get sucked into a sun or shot down by alien space craft and you most likely will have to go back to the starter ship. These things kept me going back to the game even after frustrating runs. However, this sometimes kept me from using the mid-tier ships that I could afford because sometimes death was so sudden and unavoidable that I felt like it would be a waste to use them. Not the wisest decision, since I was rarely able to make much progress with just the starter ship. As a whole, this should make it slightly easier every run, and is a way to measure progressions outside of the sometimes tedious resource gathering-and-then-dying grind.

This might not be the most off putting thing about Rymdresa – that would be the text that is written in space. It is clear from the beginning of the game that this universe is not like our own. Planets zoom past and impossible speeds, someone has left a shit ton of mines lying around for some reason, there is metal bumpers and boost arrows that make it look more like a pinball machine than a galaxy, and there are blocks with creepy faces on them that float around and do fuck all. There are also thousands of cheap fortune cookie fortunes and cliche sentences from self-help books, such as “Trust the nature” emblazoned across space, surrounded by experience stars. I think, but I am not sure, these were added to prod the player to think and meditate. However, it comes off as forced and very quickly I was looking for the text just to find star clusters.

In addition to these kinds of phrases, the player unlocks audio logs from an astronaut (themselves?) in the form of short poems. I did not find them bad although I haven’t come across an entry that has stuck with me. I am sure they will be turnoffs for some people. The thing I found interesting about them is that they paint a picture that is unlike the cut scenes at the beginning of the game. The set up is that Earth is dead and you are the lone survivor who needs to explore space to build up enough resources to find a new home. But from listening to the poetry, I am not sure that is actually the case. At times it feels that we are not traversing space, but rather traversing someone’s mind or at least thoughts. perhaps they are in a coma or in some kind of mental distress. This would also explain the text written in the galaxy – are these passing thoughts?

Maybe the truth will be uncovered when I get to the end of the game. In the meantime, I am enjoying my time collecting space points, dying frustrating deaths, and slowly mastering this game. Despite finding parts of it frustrating and the text unappealing, it is so easy to just jump in and out. When it goes well, and you are doing well, it feels great. There are some really satisfying experiences in the game, but its presentation and how it plays might be better for a special niche of players who want to experience both a peaceful, lonely romp through space with the occasional unavoidable and unfair death.

 

The post Rymdresa lulls you into a trance before blasting you to bits appeared first on One More Continue.

]]>
http://onemorecontinue.com/rymdresa-trance-blasting-to-bits-review/feed/ 0
Year Walk: A Review http://onemorecontinue.com/year-walk-review/ http://onemorecontinue.com/year-walk-review/#respond Sun, 01 Jan 2017 23:57:21 +0000 http://onemorecontinue.com/?p=1030 We have all had that moment when we needed to blow into a church door’s keyhole to prepare ourselves for the next year, right? Year Walk is a game based on that, where you go on an Årsgång, an obscure Swedish tradition where you attempt to catch a glimpse of what may come. The tradition is not […]

The post Year Walk: A Review appeared first on One More Continue.

]]>

We have all had that moment when we needed to blow into a church door’s keyhole to prepare ourselves for the next year, right? Year Walk is a game based on that, where you go on an Årsgång, an obscure Swedish tradition where you attempt to catch a glimpse of what may come. The tradition is not well known, even in academic circles, and is what drew me to the game. When I first loaded up Year walk, I was expecting to see parts of Scandinavian folklore that I was familiar with from my childhood stories. Instead, the game seemed unfamiliar and the only thing I recognised was the skågsrå. When I first played it, I came across very little information on årsgång and was sceptical about the legitimacy of the tradition. This year, I came across a great write up by Leo Kent where he investigates the origins of this tradition. He found Tommy Kuusela, a PhD student in Sweden who similarly became interested in årsgång after playing the game. Since then, he has given talks and remains the one credible source on the Wikipedia article on it.

Going on a year walk was to get a chance to see the future, of what the next year will bring. First, you have to seclude yourself in a dark room and abstain from eating and drinking. At midnight, you set off to for the local church, venturing through the dangerous woods. Once you reach the church, there are a bunch of variable traditions that must be done, such as blowing into the key hole, or walking around it anti-clockwise. In doing this, you would meet supernatural beings. Depending on what was encountered, it would signify a different divination for the next year. Year walks would take place on significant nights, such as Christmas Eve, St. Lucia’s Day, and New Year’s Eve. The game starts with you deciding to set off on a year walk.

The game started out on iOS before being ported to the PC, where I played it. I would describe it as a short, atmospheric adventure game. There are a few puzzles, some that really require thinking outside the game. Almost literally for some of them. navigating the world is done through going left or right, and in some places where it is allowed, going forward or backwards. Interactions are simple, usually only relying on mouse movements and clicks and the keyboard for traversal. The game, while embellishing certain aspects of myth and legend, remains fairly true to the year walk tradition. Some puzzle solutions are directly tied to what people reportedly really did.

After learning it was originally and iOS game, I can see where some of the puzzles and environments would work better. However, I never felt that using a mouse was detrimental to the play of the game. It would also seem that some puzzles were redesigned for the PC version, as a few relied on mobile specific mechanics. There is a companion app on iOS that acts like an encyclopaedia. In the PC version, this exists in the menu but I am not sure if there is a difference between the two.

Year Walk is pretty creepy. There is almost no sound as you walk through the forest, except the crunch of snow. You will meet a mysterious forest maiden (skåsgrå), a river horse (bäckahästen), search for dead children, and more. The atmosphere is perfect at conveying the sense of walking in the winter snow at night. The creatures you meet are unnerving rather than threatening. Although they help you in your walk, in return for overcoming their challenges, they aren’t overtly friendly or malicious like a lot of supernatural beings portrayed in popular media today. They are proper supernatural whatever that may be, related more to the creatures of fairy tales than the orcs and elves of the Lord of the Rings.

The only real complaint I have is that the story, which originally was a movie script, was really hard for me to get. I enjoyed the atmosphere and experience so much that I didn’t mind missing out on the narrative. I didn’t learn that there was more to it than just the walk until I was reading through forum threads on the game much later. So if that is important, do pay attention a bit more. With a little extra knowledge, it made more sense to me on the second time around. But for a game supposedly based off of a script, it might not be a good sign if the story is so hidden. The overall experience more than made up for it. It was about going on my own year walk.

The idea of a year walk sounds peculiar, but it makes sense. Depriving yourself of food, water, and light before setting out at midnight to trudge through snow seems like something which would make you see things. Not hallucinate, but doesn’t the light hitting the water look like a baby murder horse? Was the sound I heard walking around the church the wind or the alluring song of a skågsrå? Ultimately. I think, it allows someone to be alone and to reflect on both the past year and the coming one, without distractions.

 

Leo Kent – Year Walk, Myths and Monsters

Tommy Kuusela – “He met his own funeral procession”: The Year walk-ritual in Swedish folk tradition

 

The post Year Walk: A Review appeared first on One More Continue.

]]>
http://onemorecontinue.com/year-walk-review/feed/ 0
Munin: A Review http://onemorecontinue.com/munin-review/ http://onemorecontinue.com/munin-review/#respond Wed, 28 Dec 2016 02:26:45 +0000 http://onemorecontinue.com/?p=1016 Munin is a pretty cool puzzle platform game that, for some reason, wanted to be about Norse mythology. The premise of the game is that you, usually a raven that helps Odin keep an eye on things, have been turned into a human by Loki. To regain your crow form, you need to travel the […]

The post Munin: A Review appeared first on One More Continue.

]]>

Munin is a pretty cool puzzle platform game that, for some reason, wanted to be about Norse mythology. The premise of the game is that you, usually a raven that helps Odin keep an eye on things, have been turned into a human by Loki. To regain your crow form, you need to travel the different worlds of Norse lore and collect enough feathers to reverse the transformation. It’s 2D, you jump around to collect stuff, there are platforms, and each section does a pretty decent job of tying its theme to the different parts of the Norse mythological world.

The screen is divided into blocks that can be spun around in 90-degree increments. Usually, it is divided into a 2×2 grid, but sometimes it can be 4×2 or larger. In some levels, spinning one section will also spin another section in tandem. If you think it is just about aligning platforms to get from one area to the other you would be wrong. Each section adds to this mechanic by introducing thematic elements that make it more complex. The first area, for example, is based on Jotunheim – the home of the giants – and is depicted as a rocky place. In this world, there are round boulders which will roll, fall, or otherwise find some way to squish you when you aren’t paying attention. Future worlds have elves and dwarfs that shoot lasers, runes that need to be completed, water and wells that need to be managed, and more.

A lot of games leave me feeling disappointed because they did not push the limits on their mechanic. They give you something cool and interesting and then either don’t do anything with it or just let it fizzle. Munin is different. I feel they cranked as much as they could out of their rotating screen mechanic and they did it in the perfect way every puzzle game should do it in. The best puzzle games start off easy, to intuitively teach you what to do to solve its puzzles. It’s like getting to know someone on a first date. Start the conversation light and friendly – “What do you do for work?”, “Do you like the city you live in?”, “Do you think cheese belongs in a salad?”. After the base has been set, then it can get crazy.

Munin does this over and over. Each world starts off rather easy to show off and teach you the main mechanic for that world. Then it gets progressively harder where you first have to demonstrate what you know before really breaking the mind bank and stepping out of the box on some of the later levels. And then the game starts throwing everything together into some evil smorgasbord of turning panels of death.

When approaching a level in Munin, the easy part is knowing where to go. The hard part is figuring out how to get there. Since you can’t manipulate the screen in a section you are currently in, or a section connected to the one you are currently in, you need to think a few steps ahead. Turns this, jump there, turn that, drop down there, avoid the laser, get that feather, climb up there and oh no I miscalculated! 

Death comes easy but it never felt terribly punishing, which is fine in a game like this. You might have to remember some of the combinations, though, as the level resets as well. However, giving the amount of time I spent figuring out the solutions, this was never a problem unless I walked way from the game.  It was fun beating the levels, especially towards the end when your manipulation of the screen can affect things in real time. Often, I would rotate a corner that shifted a laser just right so its beam bounced off the other corner and obliterated me. These parts uncovered the frustrating thing about Munin – the jumping. For a platformer, the jumping feels completely off at times. Sometimes it works, sometimes it only kind of works. For the most part, this isn’t a problem with the game since it is rather slow paced but towards the end when you need to react to things happening in a timed window, it can get frustrating.

What initially drew me to Munin was the Norse mythology aesthetic, because I am a sucker for that. However, I think that Munin will only appeal to people who specifically like 2D platform/puzzle games. There are better entries in this genre for those who aren’t used to them – Fez, Braid, and Thomas Was Alone come to mind. It is not because Munin is a bad game, far from it, but it doesn’t have much to it besides its puzzles. The Norse theme is nice but it could have had any other skin and work just as well. The better games in this category have puzzles that are just as satisfying,  but also better sound, aesthetics and a story.  That being said, Munin is often on sale for less than a Euro and at that price, it is completely worth it if the mechanics sound interesting. It is really the only thing the game has going for it – unless you also appreciate the Norse mythology setting. The setting I feel a little torn over. On one hand, I love that they were able to tie the mechanics to the different worlds of the Norse mythos, but on the other, there isn’t much there that really has to do with the mythology.

The bottom line is – if you want a decent puzzle platformer that beats most of its competitors on the regular Steam sales, (and you have already played the powerhouses in the genre) then Munin is what you want.

The post Munin: A Review appeared first on One More Continue.

]]>
http://onemorecontinue.com/munin-review/feed/ 0
Antichamber: A Review http://onemorecontinue.com/antichamber-a-review/ http://onemorecontinue.com/antichamber-a-review/#respond Thu, 08 Dec 2016 01:06:04 +0000 http://onemorecontinue.com/?p=996   “You are in a twisty maze of passages, all alike.” This is a (somewhat) well-known description of a non-linear maze in Colossal Cave. Going one way and then doubling back did not always mean that you ended up in the same room. These types of mazes were common and commonly annoying in early text […]

The post Antichamber: A Review appeared first on One More Continue.

]]>
Antichamber

 

“You are in a twisty maze of passages, all alike.”

This is a (somewhat) well-known description of a non-linear maze in Colossal Cave. Going one way and then doubling back did not always mean that you ended up in the same room. These types of mazes were common and commonly annoying in early text adventures, the rooms randomly connected. Antichamber is a game that takes this idea and mashes it with M. C. Escher inspired geometry and perspective to create an unforgettable puzzle game. The world does not necessarily adhere to any physical rules of the world we know and inhabit and withing the first few minutes of the game, everything you thought you knew about videogame logic is thrown out the window. Stairwells go up and up and yet the next floor is the same one where you started ascending. Corridors and doors appear and disappear depending on the angle you are looking at them. The world changes when viewed through different colour lenses or objects. Disorienting at first, but ultimately satisfying, half the puzzles are about navigating a world free from physics. The puzzles are about observation, experimentation, and thinking in ways that we are not used to when playing videogames.

The other half comprises of different coloured blocks that you can manipulate with your block gun. For example, one colour creates blocks you can step on, another creates or removes walls. The player uses these coloured blocks to solve puzzles in a myriad of ways. Antichamber is that kind of game that throws you in and asks you to figure it out yourself. Despite this, the game does a good job of teaching players the logic needed to solve the puzzles as long as they are willing to experiment.

As you go through the game you come across these small panels with a simple drawing and a quip about life that could have come from a fortune cookie. These “lessons” are collected on a mural at your hub, a room from where you manage the game. Together these form a sort of tapestry that describes life. I rolled my eyes at some of them. They provide hints at what comes ahead, and a few were wisdoms too easily forgotten as we live our lives. Interestingly, in earlier versions of the game, these messages were apparently negative instead of the positive ones in the final release. This changed as Alexander Bruce, the creator, was working on the game. From the Gamechurch interview:

“This doesn’t really fit with the rest of the game, which is about positive reinforcement to overcome challenges. I can’t not have this message here because its important that I say something about it, but I don’t want to lie. I don’t want to say a positive message that I don’t believe.” I guess because I care so much about the game and am learning so much about myself outside of that, I can just change my beliefs and write a positive message in the game. Then I can just change my beliefs in the real world moving forward as well,” and that just makes you a more humble positive person.

This makes sense when you listen to Alexander recount his experience of the game’s development at his GDC talk on it. It took him 7 years to make this game and he poured every ounce of life he had into it. At the end of the talk, when asked what he wanted to do next, he said (paraphrased) “that it won’t be making a videogame. If I feel like that I don’t want to do that shit again”. The drive that made Antichamber successful came partially from Alexander’s fear of never completing the game and wasting time and him thinking of and implementing ways to create a game that will stand out from the crowd while still staying true to what he wanted to make. Indie developer burnout is a very common thing but I felt that the approach Alexander took was lateral, this thinking outside of the box and taking opportunities in cycles of intense drive, reflection, and learning. In this context, Antichamber is a personal work. It challenges players to break their rules, to grasp opportunities, and to partake in the cycle of observe, reflect, learn.

antichamber lesson

Comparing Antichamber to Portal is common but also doesn’t give Antichamber credit. Portal is a puzzle game centred around a gimmick and an admittedly unforgettable antagonist, but Antichamber is a puzzle game that challenges our world view. It might be just the world view of how videogames should work but the process of going through it and discovering how it works is more rewarding and more natural. Often puzzle games just give you tools and then challenge you in how to use them. Antichamber makes you challenge yourself. It encourages a type of thinking that is beneficial outside the scope of the videogame. This is something most games just can not do.

 

Antichamber teaches us how to break our perspective on things we think we know, things we think we are experts at. Introspection is important. Perception is important. Antichamber is about challenging these things and hopefully after you finish the game, you will learn a little more about how you see the world around you.

 

The post Antichamber: A Review appeared first on One More Continue.

]]>
http://onemorecontinue.com/antichamber-a-review/feed/ 0