How Hidden Agenda Stacks Up as A Single Player Experience

We certainly saw how people had responded to Until Dawn, especially on streaming sites. That inspired a lot of the direction we’ve taken with the game.”

Hidden Agenda_20171029154011Supermassive Games has been around since last gen, dabbling in the creation of downloadable content for LittleBigPlanet among other minor projects, though 2015’s Until Dawn was their breakout hit. The developers saw Until Dawn transform into a party game due to its decision based gameplay that could result in either all or none of the eight playable characters dying.

This group-centered environment induced by Until Dawn’s mechanics heavily informed the design of Hidden Agenda. Whether that change in direction is for the better isn’t my place to decide as the developers have made it clear through interviews and trailers that the multiplayer “competitive” mode is THE way to play the game. Well, I have no friends so I have yet to try the multiplayer mode myself, but that’s not what this article is for.

Hidden Agenda_20171029160306Rather than writing a traditional review of Hidden Agenda because I have not experienced it properly, I aim to figure out how well it stacks up as a single player experience through the game’s “story” mode. Not everyone interested in this game may want to play with friends. They’d prefer an isolated experience in a similar vein to Until Dawn. Before starting the analysis, it’s worth noting the price. Launching at $20  after Until Dawn‘s full fledged $60 price tag in 2015(which can now be had for $20), it’s clear that Hidden Agenda is a budget title and should be treated as such.

Hidden Agenda_20171103202355First impressions for the single player gamer are not strong. Even if you want to play by yourself, you are still required to download the Hidden Agenda app for your smartphone. Don’t worry. It’s free, though using this app, as you’ll soon find out, is a price of admission not worth taking. Both the system and phone have to be connected through the same wifi network before they can be synced. The game is played entirely through this app, a design decision that ultimately hampers the single player experience, transforming it into a hollow shell devoid of any potential it might have had. The already simple mechanics of Until Dawn are streamlined even further. Players never physically control either of the protagonists in a three dimensional space. Instead, the three modes of control consist of:

  • Making one of two decisions(it’s never any more than two)
  • Quick time events; either uneventful chase sequences or some of the most awkward fights you’ll witness in your life
  • Crime Investigation

On paper, crime scene investigation seems like the most interesting use of the playlink technology powering the game until you realize how shallow the experience is. Every crime scene consists of a single still frame with three pieces of evidence scattered about the scene. Crime scene investigations are timed, which when utilized properly, should add a sense of pressure that only video games can provide. However, instead of being a tense race against the clock, these scenes devolve into tedious wrestling matches against the unresponsive touch controls. Through the entirety of the experience, all decisions and mechanics are enabled through the use of an on-screen pointer that corresponds to your finger on the phone. Crime scenes use this pointer as well. This is where the game begins to fall apart. The second you identify a clue, the stupid app has a schizophrenic attack and loses the normally adequate, though not ideal, level of response for at least 2-4 seconds, wasting your time in the process. I did not time the crime scenes myself, though they are all definitely expected to be completed within a window of under thirty seconds.

Hidden Agenda_20171103203201The developers recognized this shitty technology and accounted for that. Guiding the pointer in the general direction of a clue highlights a gigantic magnifying glass, immediately giving away the item of interest. It’s a cop-out that would have been unnecessary if the app worked as the developers claimed or better yet, if gamers that know how to hold a controller were given the option of using one. Quick time events are similarly unresponsive, explaining why every QTE prompt slows down the action to give you enough time to wrestle with the controls. Even then, bringing the pointer close enough to the desired QTE box magnetically pulls it in. This design deficiency also adversely effects simple binary decisions. Often, when laying my finger on the phone, dragging back and forth, the pointer would magnetically teleport to the undesired choice, leaving me at the mercy of the playlink technology’s incompetence.

We haven’t had any problems with latency and so forth. We’re comfortable with the fact that we have quick-time events in the game and timed choices, and that’s caused no problems at all…We haven’t at any point had to think, ‘We can’t do that because of latency.’ It just works.

Right. Sure. Okay.

Hidden Agenda_20171103211148

Be careful dragging your pointer around curiously. The shit controls might make the decision for you against your will.

While control is limited, thereby inhibiting the level of player agency you’d expect from a game of this nature, Hidden Agenda does at the very least exceed Until Dawn in one key area: Presentation. In the move from an earlier version of the Decima Engine circa Killzone: Shadowfall to Unreal Engine 4, Supermassive Games has crafted one of the most visually impressive games of the generation. Despite being two years old, Until Dawn remains one of the best looking current gen games, with Hidden Agenda pushing far beyond that. Noticeable improvements to lighting, materials, and character models are integral to making the experience that much more immersive, a necessity given how lackluster the narrative is.

Hidden Agenda is far from a compelling story. The plot is poorly paced with characters having very little room to develop. It’s perhaps a byproduct of the two to three hour length better suited to film combined with the inefficiency of a script that feels as though it was written for a much longer game. Until Dawn was not cinematic genius, but it wasn’t trying to be. Hidden Agenda doesn’t aspire to be Citizen Kane either, though with the anemic length and lack of player agency, the game’s success hinges entirely on its narrative and when even that feels bare bones, there’s a problem. Filled with some of the most obtrusive scene transitions I have ever witnessed in any piece of entertainment, even Tommy Wiseau would be more capable of tying scenes together.

The basic plot holds promise for an interactive narrative. It centers around a serial killer that is sentenced to death for a series of murders dubbed the “trapper” killings due to each victim being rigged with a trap that kills first responders. The mystery and motives surrounding these murders has the potential to elicit unique gameplay encounters and enable morally ambiguous player choice. What we are left with is a poorly written story devoid of a legitimate sense of agency and filled with mostly binary decisions that do little to stimulate the mind.

Hidden Agenda_20171103214540Hidden Agenda is a botched attempt at capitalizing on the legacy the studio started to build with Until Dawn. In its chase for the casual group-think crowd, Supermassive Games has crafted a shallow experience. While it may very well be a fun game to play with a group of friends over some pizza and drinks, it’s almost insultingly empty for the single player gamer. With that said, Hidden Agenda is still worth looking into for devout proponents of the narrative potency of video games. While it may be a “failure” incapable of competing with proper crime/thriller films and television shows, it’s commendable that the developers took a risk in an industry so averse to experimentation. There are worse ways to spend $20. After all, you could end up finding a used copy of Final Fantasy 15. 

Advertisements

What Remains of Edith Finch And Interactive Storytelling 





WARNING: SPOILERS!

What Remains of Edith Finch is many things. It is a narrative driven experience, or as some like to call it, a “walking simulator”. It is a collection of short stories, but most importantly, What Remains of Edith Finch is one of the finest contemporary examples of the  effectiveness of interactive storytelling. When it hits its peak, Edith Finch utilizes the medium’s interactivity to deliver potent story beats and moments that would be impossible to replicate in any other form of entertainment. 

The player takes control of Edith Finch, the sole remaining member of the Finch Family. She returns to her old family home after being away for years in search of the truth behind each family member’s death. This is where Edith Finch‘s narrative structure lies.

Once the player happens upon the Finch family home, they are left to their own devices. Each room contains a letter, note, or memorabilia of some kind which triggers a playable chapter detailing each individual’s final moments. Due to this set-up and the fact that the game contains no puzzles of any sort, it’s entirely possible to make it to the end while missing half of the Finch family secrets.

However, doing so would be a disservice to the team’s hand-crafted elegance. Rushing through the game is exactly the opposite of what you’re supposed to do. You are supposed to take it slow. After all, there is a reason the game’s default walking speed is mind-numbingly slow and why a sprint function is absent. What Remains of Edith Finch is a labor of love from a studio of tightly-knit individuals. They are proud of the experience they have created and entrust the player to appreciate the game’s quiet time, extrapolating extra information through environmental observation.

The house is painstakingly detailed. Each room serves to accentuate the individual stories as well as the story at large surrounding the Finch family’s supposed “curse”. A player could in theory make a mad-dash to each interactive note/object and learn enough just through the playable stories, but Edith Finch deserves more attention than that. Because this is a video game and not a film, the player is given the opportunity to linger and that more than anything is what cements Edith Finch as a strong narrative experience.

What Remains of Edith Finch also utilizes video game conventions to tell certain stories in ways that only a video game could. The story of Molly Finch is just one example of this. As a kid with an active imagination, Molly claims she was hungry one night, then saw a bird. She tried reaching for this bird and in doing so suddenly turns into a cat. Through a series of events and clever transitions, she then becomes an owl, then a shark, then a sea monster. Each shift in perspective provides a shift in playstyle and controls, each of which prove to be disorienting to the player. 

Boundless leaps of logic are to be expected in a video game and that sort of logic-leaping nonsense in the typical video game is a perfect catalyst for representing the imagination of a little girl. These radical shifts in perspective leave the player in wonder as he/she comes to grips with the controls and rule set of each new perspective, perfectly echoing the mindset of a child as she’s pretending to be all these things and acclimating. Had this been a film or novel, the effect just wouldn’t have been the same.

Unfortunately, for all its successes, What Remains of Edith Finch also highlights why games like this still have a lot to learn. I mentioned quiet time earlier, but to be honest, there actually is very little of it. Edith herself talks a lot. Any interactive object will trigger dialogue from Edith. Traveling through most of the house will trigger dialogue. Go up these steps. Trigger dialogue. Open this door. Trigger dialogue. It’s as if the writers were afraid their niche game would somehow bore the sort of player that is interested in experiences of this nature. A little more restraint could have gone a long way.

What Remains of Edith Finch, despite what you may believe, is a wonderful celebration of life rather than a mourning of death.

“In Memory of Shirley Davis”

Reads the end credits soon followed by portraits of every member at Giant Sparrow. You’ll immediately notice that each member’s portrait is taken from their infancy and early childhood years. That’s when it hits. As Edith echoes in her final words: “I don’t want you to be sad. I want you to be amazed that we ever had the chance to be here at all“. What Remains of Edith Finch is a narrative experience that explores and celebrates the gift of life and living in the moment. While it may still have room to grow, What Remains of Edith Finch is about as good as it gets within this genre at this point in time. This genre and the video game industry at large still have a lot to learn about writing, pacing, and restraint, but regardless, it’s exciting to be a part of this and play something as special as What Remains of Edith Finch.

NieR: Automata Is One of The Best And Most Clever Games of The Generation(Too Clever For The Financial Post) 

Nier: Automata exemplifies what is wrong with mainstream gaming media. Although Automata‘s reception has been startlingly positive from both critics and consumers, there are a scant few individuals that missed the point of Nier: Automata and as such, their overall impression of the game is less than positive.

One example is the Financial Post’s review. Before we begin to tear this review apart, I must preface this tirade by stating that I condone dissenting opinions. There is nothing inherently wrong with one critic liking a game and another one disliking it. It’s bound to happen and as long as both sides of the fence have legitimate reasons and arguments for their own sides, all it does is generate a rich discussion surrounding the game.

The issue with The Financial Post’s review of the game is that the reviewer in question(Chad Sapieha if you want to get out the pitchforks) did not finish the game properly. Based on the wording used in his review, it’s fair to assume he either never finished a second playthrough or just never even started one to begin with. This can be surmised by the following excerpt: “Perhaps I stopped too early. Maybe I should have played through a second time – and a third and fourth – to see what the writers were holding back for those with the patience and tenacity to keep going. Maybe Nier: Automata is actually the Rashomon of video games, providing new insight and perspective each time you play, resulting in something that transcends each individual play-though.


But if Platinum Games wanted me to do that, it should have made the first time through a lot more charming
.”

This closing sentiment echoes the unprofessional attitude the writer took when choosing to critique Nier. The issue stems from that fact that the “multiple playthroughs” are integral to Nier: Automata‘s design. Unlike a lot of other games that like to claim “branching storylines” and “multiple endings”, Nier really follows through on that promise of delivering an entirely new experience until the true ending is achieved by the third playhthrough. 

Automata‘s playthroughs are more than simply playing this game the exact same way and getting a different cutscene at the end. Story route A is basically equivalent to the opening 10-15 hours of a sprawling 60+ hour rpg. You’re barely scratching the surface of the game and in reviewing it so prematurely have defamed the narrative ambition of the title.

Because – in what can only be described as an utterly miscalculated decision – the writers decided that in order to fully explore these weighty themes and issues they needed to make us play the game more than once.

After finishing it the first time, with no real resolutions provided, we’re told we need to start this 25-hour plus game all over again to get the full Nier: Automata experience.”
If the reviewer in question had bothered to begin a second playthrough, he would have immediately found out that the thirty minute or so prologue mission is entirely different and that players take control of 9S. 9S controls differently from 2B, already making it a unique enough experience from the outset. However, that’s not where the game’s ambition lies so let’s go a step further.

Each subsequent playthrough essentially acts as new game plus, meaning all gold, crafting materials, character progression, weapons, and so on carry over from story route A all the way to C, cutting down on the tedium typically associated with playing a game more than once for a different ending. Furthermore, 9S has the ability to hack enemies, chests, and doors, introducing an entirely new mechanic to story route b. That’s to say nothing of the added story scenes throughout that flesh out sections you’ve already played in addition to new enemy types being introduced. EVEN FURTHER, all previously completed side quests will remain completed, meaning no time wasted on doing the same tedious side quests again and again for lore or extra experience or just to scratch your OCD itch. 

That second playthrough already sounds like a different enough experience to be worth playing, doesn’t it? The real game changer, however, is story route c. This third playthrough is a different game from beginning to end. It introduces yet another new playable character, A2, whom plays similarly to 2B with the added mechanic of taunting enemies to enrage them, increasing both your attack power and their attack power. Story route c takes place after endings a and b. This isn’t just some “let’s play the same main story again a third time with even more added cutscenes to flesh it out even more”. No, this third route is a fresh experience. Story route c is so integral to the narrative structure of Nier: Automata that a preview of future events in an anime style “this is what will happen next. Tune in to find out” plays after the end credits of story route b. 

If Chad Sapieha had bothered to play the game three times and still didn’t like it much, then that’s fair play. However, as it stands, his criticism of Nier: Automata is predicated entirely upon the need to play an open world rpg more than once to fully understand the story. It’s clear by the review that Chad didn’t understand just how different each playthrough is and as such, his criticism of Nier: Automata is unprofessional. That it even showed up on metacritic is baffling. The Financial Post should stick to boring news and stock information. It’s clear that the site and Chad aren’t qualified enough to properly review a game.  

Rainbow Six Siege is Brilliant

A little over a year on from its release with a second year of confirmed support, Rainbow Six Siege has survived its launch woes and cements itself as one of the best shooters of this generation.

Rainbow Six Siege has been able to captivate me in ways no other game has. Its greatest strength lies within the methodical pacing. Each match lasts only a handful of minutes, and combined with the low player health and lack of respawning, that makes each second crucial.

The difference between winning or losing a round can sometimes hinge upon whether or not you happened to be aiming at the right location at the right time. In spite of this time sensitivity, a lot of game time is spent waiting. Whether a player is laying prone in a corner or has punched a hole in a wall for a new line of site, situational awareness is paramount to success. Running in straight to the objective with reckless abandon WILL get you killed. 

Success requires patience. Oftentimes, even more tense than a firefight is a tango between players on opposing sides of an obstruction. Player 1 is repelling down the side of a building. Player 2 hears the rope and makes a quick sprint toward a corner by the window. Player 1 hears these footsteps just before deciding to charge through. This leads to a mindgame mimicking a balancing of power.

This constant balancing of power between humans players with only one life nestled deep within the micro-level destruction creates a dynamic no other multiplayer game aspires to. No other game this generation has made the simple act of slowly turning a corner feel so incredibly tense and dire. 

Both players are scared for their lives, but just one slight move can turn the tide of battle. Perhaps player 1 has a flashbang, but should he/she risk shooting or punching a hole in the window to allow space for this flashbang to enter through? Doing so might give the opponent just enough of a reaction time to gun him/her down.

Because of the nature of Rainbow Six Siege‘s mechanics, underlying structure, and game flow, more than half of your total play time will be spent scouting for information through drones or cameras, sitting in silence, listening for sounds, or dancing back and forth between an opposing player until one dies or retreats. 

It is one of the most satisfying games to play in this day and age. Yes, it’s got its fair share of bullshit like any multiplayer game in existence, but when a game plan goes right, Rainbow Six Siege enables a specific kind of power fantasy rarely seen in gaming.

Variety is The Spice of Life(Gaming)

Stop me if this has ever happened to you before. You are looking over a list of games to be released over the next several months. For a good majority of those games, all you can think is “damn, I want that”. Then, you begin to spark conversation with your gaming friends about what you are looking forward to. 

Game after game gets shut down by your friends, with statements usually along the lines of “I don’t like games like that” or “that’s not my kind of game”. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s an innocent enough statement that’s not attacking anyone for liking something different, but then you sit back and reflect. 

As a “hardcore gamer”, you find yourself enamored by the sheer variety of experiences on offer in the medium. As such, you refuse to turn a game down just because of the genre it falls in or just because it’s purely gameplay driven or just because it’s a cinematic/narrative driven experience. You love all games because all kinds of experiences are equally valid, but your friends have a much more limited taste in games, making it far more difficult to really connect in conversation.

Gaming’s greatest strength is its versitlity which can extend far beyond that of any other medium. Want to watch a horror movie? There’s esentially only serious horror or cheesy and/or comedy horror. Want to play a horror video game? Yeah, there’s still the two tonal extremes as with film, but how does it actually play? Is it first person? Is it third person? Does it rely heavily on melee or gun combat? Is there even any combat at all? How much puzzle solving and environmental exploration is involved? Is it super linear or more open ended? Does it have choices that impact the narrative? How difficult is it? So many parts come together to create video games and being able to experience everything the medium has to offer keeps it from ever becoming stale. Unlike some of my friends, I never get bored of games or have my moods where I don’t want to play a game. 

That mostly comes down to the fact that I open my mind to playing any kind of game. When within a week I can go from playing a generic first person shooter to a hardcore rpg to a walking simulator to a racing game, I’m never going to grow tired of gaming. Open your mind and you’ll have so much more fun with games. 

Look Back: Playing Resident Evil 6 For The First Time in 2016

Resident Evil 6 has garnered quite the reputation as being the most reviled entry in the mainline series. It’s a game I have yet to play until very recently and after finally taking the plunge, I’m left utterly baffled by the hate. Yes, Resident Evil 6 is far from a masterpiece. It has some pretty blatant issues and frustrating design inconsistencies, but to call this a “bad” game is extreme. 

I get it. There are these hardcore series stalwarts that hate change and automatically insult any new installment in a series that’s different because they’re regressive and can’t handle change. Every fanbase has those people. Who cares that Resident Evil 6 isn’t a horror game? It was clear from the start that it was going to be an action game and makes no attempts at hiding that. 

You can complain all you want that the series’ roots are gone, but they’ve been gone for years and this game embraces that by doing a hard left turn, challenging your preconceived notions of what a Resident Evil game is. Put simply, on a purely mechanical level, Resident Evil 6 is the most satisfying RE game to play. 

First impressions upon beginning the prologue are iffy. The opening playable sequence is a tightly directed and controlled vertical slice that entirely removes control from the player. When the tutorial prompts you to use the left stick to move, Leon will move forward regardless of which direction you move the analog stick. It’s as if Resident Evil 6 thinks you’re a fucking dumbass and can’t handle control in video games. Once it begins properly,though, it shines brightly, but not too bright. 

Let’s get this out of the way. Resident Evil 6 is not what I’d call a good game; more along the lines of average, but that’s the problem with consumers in this day and age. They hear anything less than “amazing” and the game is not worth their time. Plenty of average games can be filled with a fair amount of fun and interesting ideas/mechanics. RE 6 is one of those games.

No matter how directionless the story and level design becomes; no matter how contrived and scripted its set pieces can be, Resident Evil 6 feels so good to play. The mobility and control is something I never thought I’d see in a Resident Evil game. The ability to sprint and slide while still shooting is a blessing. Additionally, you can quick turn during the slide and still be laying on your back, ready to shoot at any enemies from behind with style. 

There’s also the fact that your character seamlessly transitions from cover to laying on the ground and vice versa just from moving the analog stick back and forth. If you’re on your back against a wall, the camera switches to a first person perspective so as to not cause camera issues. I also haven’t even begun to mention the contextual melee animations as well as the No Mercy mode.

Resident Evil 6 isn’t a game I’d revisit time and time again because of how well designed it is like Resident Evil 4 or even Resident Evil 5, but it’s far better than butthurt fanboys make it out to be. I was pleasantly surprised by how good the game felt on a purely mechanical level. In that respect, this is the best RE game by miles. 

7 Favorite Games

Not too long ago, #7favegames was trending on Twitter. After several days of collecting my thoughts and such, I decided I’d compile my seven favorite games. Keep in mind with lists like these that personal preference holds greater significance than a more objective analysis(hence the title “favorite” not “best”). Also, it’s important to remember that sometimes your mood can impact the experience of a game so this isn’t my definitive list for eternity, but these are my favorite games as of right now. 

7. Dungeon Travelers 2: The Royal Library and the Monster Seal


RPG’s are my favorite genre. There’s something about the consistent progression and management of skills/abilities that triggers the OCD within me. Deep RPG elements are the most satisfying mechanics to manipulate and understand in a game. Spending half an hour in menus, carefully comparing stats and deciding which skills benefit which class the most is compelling enough to save an otherwise mediocre game. 

It’s a saving grace then that Dungeon Travelers 2 is one of the deepest rpg’s you’ll ever play with an insane amount of customization and malleability for different playstyles, but the game surrounding these elements is nothing to scoff at. Dungeons quickly become engaging tests of endurance and path-finding while the game’s characters and writing ooze self-aware humor. Dialogue scenes never overstay their welcome unlike a lot of other rpg’s(I’m looking at you Trillion: God of Destruction). Dungeon Travelers 2 provides perhaps the most gratifying role playing experience you’ll ever have on a handheld. 

6. Dead or Alive 5: Last Round


Fighting games aren’t known for being accessible. As a person that doesn’t have the time or desire to become a high level pro at something like a Blazblue, DOA 5 is the best fighting game to jump into. Fighters tend to have this issue whereby they’re either too difficult or they’re too easy. Dead or Alive 5: Last Round captures the perfect balance between accessibility and depth. 

Anyone can press buttons and make impressive things happen on screen, helped by the fast paced nature of combat and fluidity of the animations. It’s the only fighting game I’ve been able to enjoy on a surface level while still having enough depth that I can pursue when I find myself bored with the core mechanics. It’s a game I’ve sunk over 600 hours into and with the upcoming Mai of King of Fighters fame being added to the roster next month, there will be many more hours to come. 

5. Gears of War 3


Of all the triple-A shooters to release on last gen consoles, Gears of War 3 is one of the best. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the original game. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the first game is mediocre, but Gears of War 2 revitalized my interest in the series while Gears of War 3 was the bonafide masterpiece the franchise needed. I couldn’t begin to tell you how many hours I wasted away playing through the campaign, competitive multiplayer, and horde modes. From my personal experience, Gears of War is the only trilogy to get better with each installment culminating in the tightest and most satisfying shooter experience of the last console generation. 

4. Sonic The Hedgehog 2

 The original Genesis sonic trilogy(counting Sonic 3 & Knuckles as a single game) is one of the best trilogies in gaming with Sonic 2 being the peak of that series. Few platformers since have been able to capture the personality of Sonic 2. The music and level design remains unmatched by modern day platformers.

3. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt


The Witcher 3 succeeds as an open world game where countless others fail. While most other games use an open world design as a crutch to fill the map with copy/paste mission types for no reason other than to fill the map with icons, The Witcher 3 fills even the most insignificant and repetitious of missions and missions types with meaningful context that adds a lot to the world. It’s probably the best designed open world game of all time. 

2. Shadow of The Colossus 


Shadow of The Colossus is a difficult game to talk about. To describe it on a mechanical level wouldn’t do it justice. It’s the kind of experience that isn’t comprehensible until you play it. The game’s ability to carry so much emotion through its use of minimalism isn’t very common in the industry. If you want something that will stick with you for years to come, Shadow of The Colossus is that game. 

1. The Last of Us

I won’t go on heaping mountains of praise upon this game as by now, you’ve probably heard everything there is to hear. As an overall experience, it is the best game Naughty Dog has put out and despite its strong narrative and characters, also contains a surprisingly quality multiplayer component that remains contextualized within the game world. It is one of the best examples of what video games can be as a medium for storytelling. It was a huge risk for a triple-A first party developer to go from the bombastic action of Uncharted to the pared back intimacy of The Last of Us, but it paid off. 

Polygon, Sorcery Saga, and Agenda Pushing B.S.

I think most gamers by this point are well aware of the sort of agenda pushing that sites like Kotaku and Polygon are known for. Remember that infamous Bayonetta 2 polygon review?

This article is going to focus on Polygon’s 2014 review of Sorcery Saga: Curse of The Great Curry God. Written by Danielle Riendeau, this piece highlights precisely why websites like Polygon and Kotaku are the butt of countless jokes amongst the gaming community.

The Polygon review contains two paragraphs complaining about the so-called “problematic” nature of the game’s dialogue and characters. As written by Danielle herself: “It’s colorful and goofy, though the story and writing contain problematic elements, like older male characters that hit on the teenaged heroine and plenty of tasteless jokes”


I’m not sure what game Danielle played, but to be offended and put off by Sorcery Saga‘s sense of humor is incredibly disheartening. We live in a world in which everyone gets offended and everyone needs to be politically correct all the time, otherwise you’re “insensitive” and an “awful” person. 

Where and when exactly this trend/ideology began is beyond me, but I do know that this kind of thought process is going to ruin games in the future and lead to unnecessary censorship in an attempt to appease easily offended types like Danielle. Censorship has already come to infect games such as Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, Bravely Second: End Layer, and Fire Emblem Fates. Politics, ideologies, and personal agenda have no place in video game reviews. A review should be a critical assessment of a game’s quality. A review should not highlight “problematic” things like supposed “racism” or “tasteless” humor.

What offends someone might not offend someone else. What one person finds tasteless, another person might find funny or remain unbothered. You can say the same thing about reviews in general since everyone has a different opinion. The difference is that a review attempts to separate bias as much as possible(even though it’s impossible) and asses what the game tries to be and how close it comes to reaching that goal. There are ways to review games that are separate from personal feelings.

As Kyle Bosman of Gametrailers and now Easy Allies once said “I think you can love a game and still give it a 6”. Unfortunately, by stating what game content offends you, you’re essentially throwing that out the door and only letting your singular, narrow ideals dictate what kind of content people should find problematic. That’s not the kind of funneling that belongs in a review meant to inform consumers about how good or bad a game is. 

Later in the review, Danielle inserts a sidebar so that she can push her ideals onto others and have an entire dedicated space to complain. She writes: “Curse of The Great Curry God’s bizarre writing tries to be cute and sassy, but it’s often gross and off-putting. Pupuru attracts the attention of Gigadis, a much older man who pines for her and makes uncomfortable advances towards her throughout the game. She rebuffs him, but it doesn’t stop his constant marriage proposals and verbal fantasizing about her.

The script is lousy with poorly-thought-out molestation jokes and digs at people with mental illness. The cutscenes should have been a respite from the incessant grinding, but I found myself dreading them even more than my thirtieth crawl through a dungeon”


*facepalm*

People like Danielle Riendeau don’t belong in the industry reviewing games. Sure, believe whatever you want to believe, but do NOT air your personal feelings about these kinds of things out into a review. A consumer does not care about how easily offended you are by a work of fiction. A consumer wants to know how good the game is. If you want to write about how offensive a game is, then fine, write your own separate editorial highlighting how probelmatic it is. Do NOT, however, fill your review with this garbage. 

Titties and Dead or Alive 5: Last Round

It’s no secret that Dead or Alive 5: Last Round, and the Dead or Alive series as a whole, prides itself on tits and ass. Over the years, the sex appeal has become inseparable from the franchise, be it the mainline fighting game series or the XTREME spin-offs. Dead or Alive loves to show people tits and it makes no concessions to adhere to any politically correct sensibilities. 

Even after the controversy since the series’ inception in 1996, Dead or Alive has never been as sexualized as it is today with Last Round and XTREME 3 and there is nothing wrong with that. The developers have stuck to their guns and chosen to ignore the outcry from naysayers, pushing the sexiness as far as it can go without veering into full frontal nudity. Despite the bigger push for sex appeal, the Dead or Alive series has only gotten deeper, proving that tits and ass have no bearing on a game’s quality. Those that disagree are judgmental twats that are afraid of the human body. 


With the abundance of fighting games on the market today, one needs to find a niche in order to thrive. Considering the genre is so reliant on the competitive scene and fans to carry the torch, there are only so many fighting games that can remain “relevant”. Dead or Alive sets itself apart from other fighters in more ways than one…and I’m not just talking about the tits. 

Dead or Alive 5: Last Round is one of the best fighting games around to ease newcomers into the genre. It strikes a balance between accessibility and depth that other fighters don’t manage to the same degree. Most characters’ move lists are simple and require very limited directional inputs. Most characters will only ever require pressing a single direction and sometimes a quarter circle to pull off a move. The core mechanics are easy to understand with the fast paced nature of the combat lending to it a degree of entertainment and flash for players that just want to button mash.

Beyond that, the game is littered with mechanics that hardened fighting aficionados will want to dig into. While the competitive players are certainly the beating heart of any fighting game, Dead or Alive 5 is simple enough for anyone to pick up and have fun with. That above all is one of the most integral pillars to the Dead or Alive philosophy. It’s maintaining this ideal that a game can appeal to lower level players while equally suiting the higher level players. The interactive stages of the series also make Dead or Alive one of the most entertaining fighters to watch with a level of spectacle that goes unmatched. 


Typically speaking, the kind of person to watch a fighting game tournament is someone intimately familiar with that particular game’s set of rules and fighting games in general because fighting games are hard to understand. Fortunately, Dead or Alive 5, with its fast paced combat, fluid animations, and unsurpassed interactive stages is an enjoyable watch for both the casual and the pro alike. .

Dead or Alive 5: Last Round is far from one of the best or most technical fighting games of all time, but it has a lot to like and titties are only a small part of the equation. It is an accomplished fighting game that deserves more recognition, but likely won’t ever reach the popularity it deserves because contemporary society is afraid of sexuality. We live in an era in which publications actually deducted points from Last Round‘s score just because of the sexual content. What a ridiculous time for such a good game to be alive in. 

Bioshock Infinite: The Game That Fell Into The Triple-A Trap

Bioshock Infinite was one of 2013’s critical darlings, however after playing through the game multiple times, I couldn’t help but feel dissatisfied with the end product.

Let’s travel back to 2010. This is the year consumers saw the first ever gameplay footage of Bioshock Infinite and it looked amazing. The gameplay consisted of a short walk through a burned down city before leading into a battle against some crazed preacher and it continued to escalate. By the end of the demo, players saw Elizabeth conjure up a massive boulder consisting of miscellaneous objects to be flung at enemies by the protagonist. Shortly thereafter, Booker fends off a giant mechanized beast that looked to be this game’s equivalent to the Big Daddy. Audiences were subjected to a game that appeared to be targeting a deliberate mood with intense action set to punctuate that mood. 

Then, the state of game remained dormant for a while until we saw it again in 2011. The 2011 footage gave us more insight into what we could tangibly expect from Bishock Infinite. We learned that an NPC would follow the player through the majority of the game and serve as an aid in battle. We saw a firefight in a huge open environment and we saw more of the sky hook traversal. 


Unfortunately, much of the promise from 2010 and 2011 fell by the wayside. The developers promised highly intelligent AI that would react to her environment and situations around her along with what appeared to be a progression of Elizabeth’s character. In the 2011 footage, the protagonist pointed at a rift for Elizabeth to tear open, at which point she stated something to the effect of “I’m not strong enough for that yet”. What did we get in the final game? An AI buddy that sits down and leans against walls sometimes with very basic rift-opening options. 

Unfortunately, Elizabeth’s AI and combat prowess wasn’t the only downgrade with environments being the biggest culprit. What we saw were open environments. We were promised an open world with a sky line system that players could use to traverse any part of the city. This is a far cry from the linear structure and cramped environments of the final build, not to mention the butchering of the skylines. In the version of Bioshock Infinite audiences got, the skylines served as either a straight path forward or they circled around obviously designed combat arenas. The organic nature of the early gameplay demos and even the original Bioshock was lost.

This brings us to the heart of the problem. Yes, Bioshock Infinite promised more than it delivered. Several gameplay and design elements were pared back due to the hardware limitations of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, but that’s not the only sin to Infinite‘s name. Even if we were to excuse and forget what was promised, the end result still feels like a product that wanted to be more. Part of what made the original Bioshock such an enduring game is the connected nature of the world. A lot of care was put into making Rapture feel as organic as possible within the constraints of a first person shooter. Most of Rapture feels like a place that could have in its prime existed as a real underwater city. The gameplay, story, and environment melded together well enough to paint a convincing picture of this once great underwater city.


Bioshock Infinite eschews all that care and subtlety in favor of catering to the triple-A shooter space it seemed to be competing in. Some of the best moments of the original Bioshock were the quieter moments that allowed players to reign back in and observe the environment. Bioshock Infinite has very little of that. The game is littered with endless amounts of action to the point that the last 2 or so hours felt like a completely tacked on addition to meet some quota of “okay, the game needs this ratio of shooting things to not shooting things. Add more shooting.”

There are not enough moments that allow Bioshock Infinite to show its true colors as an intelligent piece of art. It comes very close on multiple occasions. Namely, the opening and the extended gameplay sequence with Elizabeth on the beach. Bioshock Infinite is a game that pined for less action and more story, but studio bigwigs funding the whole shebang said “nah, you guys have guns in your game so you’re going to shoot a lot of things, okay? We need these many confirmed deaths at the least”. Even if the game had more of the environmental storytelling and pacing that made the original so successful, it still would pale in comparison because of the level design. Nearly every environment feels like a very “gamey” video game level. It’s obvious to the player when a shoot out will happen and when the game will settle into a smaller moment. The disconnect between story and gameplay is a crux that cements the disappointment of Bioshock Infinite.

It was too afraid to show restraint. It had the potential to be a work of art on the level of something like a Team Ico project, but Irrational Games fell into the Triple-A trap of senseless action over intelligence and devolving organic environments into “gamey” levels. When people say Triple-A is ruining the industry, Bioshock Infinite is one of the prime examples for that argument.