In a bit of site news, I’ve added a new page at the top called “What I’m Playing.” It’s exactly what it sounds like, just a simple list of games I’ve been playing lately.
One game that’s on there that wouldn’t have been there two days ago is Team Fortress 2. I’ve had the Orange Box for a while, obviously, but TF2 is probably my least-played of the package. There’s not anything innately wrong with the game, it’s just that I’ve always been more of a single-player gamer, my twenty-one-month addiction to World of Warcraft notwithstanding. Dealing with the attitude of the average twitch gamer online isn’t really something I enjoy doing.
But yesterday, after reading about the impending “Heavy Update” to the game, and looking at all the changes that Team Fortress 2 has undergone in the last few months, I decided to give the game another shot. At about two in the morning, I looked up and realized I really needed to go to bed.
For a game about time-travel and changing history, it’s appropriate that Braid seems to come from some alternate timeline in which Super Mario Bros. was a collaborative effort between Vincent van Gogh and H. G. Wells.
At its core, Braid is a platformer. You play as Tim, a dapper gent in a sport coat and tie who travels through bright, colorful levels while jumping on the heads of enemies, avoiding carnivorous plants that pop out of green pipes, and trying to save The Princess, who is always in another castle.
Does any of this sound familiar yet?
What distinguishes Tim from a certain plumber, however, is his ability to stop, speed up, and rewind the flow of time. If you’ve played Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, you’ll be pretty familiar with how the system works in Braid. Yet Braid’s time manipulation is more versatile and is the focus of gameplay instead of just a way around death, (although it’s used that way too.) It’s easy to learn and dead simple in practice, but you’ll find yourself pulling off increasingly complicated strategies as the game progresses.
Yesterday I discovered The Brainy Gamer, and reading through some of its most recent posts, I’m wondering what the hell took me so long. Its Vintage Game Club post discussing Grim Fandango alone instantly upgrades this to one of my favorite blogs, and it doesn’t hurt that the writing is excellent
In any case, I found the blog through a link from Kotaku, highlighting a number of different essays on gaming narrative that all seem to have coincidentally appeared at around the same time. Blog author Michael Abbott proposes that these essays are the beginning of a kind of manifesto concerning narratives in gaming:
Perhaps “manifesto” is too strong a word for what I’m describing, but at the moment I can’t think of a better one. Most dictionaries define the term as a public declaration of intentions, motives or views. Beyond that simple definition, however, manifestos are intrinsically anti-status-quo. Regardless of its framework – politics, ideology or art – a manifesto is a defiant call for change and an implied “Who’s with me?” All of the people I’m about to describe are plugging into something that sounds very much like a collective manifesto to me.
I won’t go into much more of it here, save that one of the authors Abbott quotes is Jonathan Blow, the creator of Braid, a game that recently hit the Xbox Live Marketplace. (A full review of which is forthcoming, but in short, a brilliant game that everyone should go play.)
Abbott’s post is an excellent read, and although I haven’t yet been able to delve into the links he provides, I expect I have several hours of reading ahead of me. Go check it out.
So my post two days ago decrying Square’s treatment of Chrono Trigger made me really, really want to play the game again. So I’ve put my Fallout 2 playthrough on hold while I tear through CT a couple of times. (Gotta love New Game Plus.)
Note that this post is going to contain game spoilers, so if you still, for some reason, care about the plot of Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VII, or Call of Duty 4 being spoiled for you, it’s probably not a good idea to click past the jump.
Dead Space gets more and more attractive each time I hear about it. The most recent delicious piece of news, as reported by Rock, Paper, Shotgun, is that much of the game was written by comic writer Warren Ellis. On his most recent mailing list release, Ellis revealed his involvement:
Oh, I got released from an NDA the other day, so I can finally say that I wrote a bunch of the groundwork, backstory and structure on the forthcoming EA videogame DEAD SPACE, which recently got a comic prequel from the hands of Antony Johnston and Ben Templesmith. I believe there was at least one other writer on the project, but I’m sure there’s some of me in there somewhere.
Ellis is the madman behind the comics series Transmetropolitan and Planetary, as well as plenty of other work for Marvel, DC, Wildstorm, Image, and others. Planetary being one of my favorite comics EVER, this announcement makes my fanboy gland pulsate in anticipation.
I’m sorry, that was gross.