Backlog 2015 #1: Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

CoverI’ve had a massive backlog of Gen 7 games since pretty much halfway through Gen 7. I’ve tried to get through them a few times and started a separate blog to try to track it. All of these attempts have failed. Now I’m trying again. This time, I have all of my Gen 7 consoles with me in London, but my PS4 (with my Great Love Battlefield) is back in Belfast and I’m not bringing it over until this backlog is cleared; I actually want to play these games. Last year I think I only managed Bayonetta (which I loved to a criminal degree) and FarCry 3 (which I despised; it was like listening to a 14yo lecture you about the nature of humanity after they’d seen Apocalypse Now for the first time). The first game of 2015 was Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons.

General Impressions

I really liked this game. Reductively, the game’s USP is its control scheme. You spend the entire game controlling the two eponymous brothers (or sons, I guess), one with each analogue stick, with the only action button being a context-sensitive “Interact” mapped to the corresponding shoulder. It works incredibly well, particularly keeping the interaction pared down to one button, allowing the player to focus on the meat of the puzzles rather than execution.. The older brother’s movement is mapped to the left stick, where movement is usually mapped in video games at large. The younger brother’s is mapped to the right stick and I tended to lose track of him. I think the designers were aware of this and used it to make the big brother seem more solid and leader-like. Brothers is fundamentally a puzzle-platformer where each new section has you manipulating the unique control scheme in an interesting way. The game is almost completely linear (not a bad thing) and I enjoyed all of my time with it. I was never bored; the game introduces many unique events that keep the gameplay fresh but they’re all based around the central idea of having two characters so I never found them token. Much of the platforming reminded me of Sands of Time; always a good thing. The game is paced such that the relaxed puzzle sections are infrequently punctuated by more thrilling, pressured sections and it’s judged perfectly to give those sections a welcome sense of tension. Continue reading

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Anarchy Reigns (The Achievements note that the title makes no sense)

Manarchy-reigns-15437-1920x1200y friends and I bought Anarchy Reigns cheap recently for something different to play multiplayer. It’s certainly different. We haven’t really played much of it yet and all I do is complain about how much damage I’m taking when I play it (#maturity). It’s enjoyably baffling, obviously bonkers but pretty frustrating. In an attempt to get to grips with the controls and systems better I played through the campaign. Here’s what I thought.

Anarchy Reigns is a sequel/prequel/interquel to MadWorld on the Wii (I have it waiting to play so I haven’t looked up the connection) so for a lot of the story I couldn’t tell if I was missing information because I hadn’t played MadWorld or because it wasn’t given to me. But it’s a Platinum Games game (<3) so honestly it could be either. The storyline is some balls about two different characters that are trying to catch up to a third character for reasons that are never fully explained and with fantastically unearned high-emotion scenes. The whole tone of the campaign is like a 12yo who’s still young enough to play with action figures but whose older brother has shown him Robocop and Die Hard. And, as with so many Platinum Games, I can’t tell if they realise this or not. Continue reading

The IndieCade Companion, Button Mash and Minigames

For the October 2013 IndieCade Festival Stephanie Barish asked me to build on my work from the 2012 festival and create a new attendee guide and metagame. I worked with Sean Bouchard, Robyn Tong Gray, Talia Rose Gruen and Elizabeth Swensen to create the final product.

The IndieCade Companion, designed by Talia Rose Gruen.

The IndieCade Companion, designed by Talia Rose Gruen.

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Werewolf Cards

Silly Werewolf "logo"This Sunday I’ve organised for some friends to get together and play some tabletop games.  It’s our first time.  We played a lot of Halo (system link ftw) during high school but with the dawn of internet gaming it became less and less frequent.  I was primarily spurred on by this (excellent but long) video from Shut Up & Sit Down.  We’re gonna start off easy, safe with Settlers of Catan and Werewolf.  I’ve only played Werewolf once in my life, but had the privilege of doing it with some really wonderful people at IndieCade 2012.  I had a great time with it, despite leaning on some common roots I shared with another player to manipulate her allegiances.  Sorry, Brenda.  I wanted to share it with my friends and to try to make it a little special I decided to make some cards to assign the roles rather than just scrawling them on paper (though my design is basically just doing that with Photoshop). Continue reading

One Hit Kill Card Game

One Hit Kill LogoSo I made a little card game!

I call it “One Hit Kill”.  It’s basically Rock, Paper, Scissors where you can only win with scissors.  Two players play head-to-head with five cards each: 1 KILL, 2 DODGE, 2 REST.  Each turn, both players select the card they want to play and place it face down on the table.  The cards are then turned over simultaneously and as bombastically as possible for MAXIMUM DRAMA.  The object of the game is to play a KILL when your opponent plays a REST.  The winner is the first to 3 KILLS. Continue reading