Firewatch
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Firewatch: Come for the beauty, stay for the eeriness

Firewatch gets it. Beauty alone isn’t enough to carry an experience. There needs to be some grit, a bit of dirt, conflict even, to elevate a videogame (hell, any piece of art) from the whimsical to something more. I have a problem with 2009’s Flower and 2013’s Proteus precisely because there isn’t anything to offset that serene beauty, their new-age hokum. But in Firewatch, no matter how gorgeous that sunset or night sky is, there’s always a thick sense of dread. Something to unsettle you. Something to make you tense up. I’m not talking bump-in-the-night, Blair-Witch, voodoo nonsense either. Forget…

Eastshade
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Eastshade will let you paint its idyllic landscapes as you explore

Hark, another open world, first-person game in which you traverse picturesque natural environments! That is both slightly unfair to Eastshade, a PC game that is currently in the making, and factually beyond reproach. Eastshade, as with many games before it, is all of those things, but it is also endearingly meta. You play as a painter who wanders through natural vistas in search of inspiration. That shouldn’t be too hard to come by, as the game offers stunning visuals, but there is still the not insignificant matter of framing. As you go about your business, you can stop to paint…

The Malware Museum
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The beautiful destruction of old-school malware

Malware. Blech! We hate malware. And so we should—deleting files, maliciously clogging up our desktops, turning our browsers into never-ending adverts. But it’s so boring and irritating these days. At least back in the 1980s and 1990s you could take a step back and admire both the technical and artistic achievement of malware before it ate your computer. If you’re not familiar with the malware of yesteryear then, fret not, you needn’t miss out. The internet archivists at archive.org have teamed up with self-professed “malware adventurer” Mikko Hypponnen to provide The Malware Museum. It’s a collection of malware programs that…

Unravel
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Burn in hell, Yarny

A videogame called Unravel will be released tomorrow. It may be a good game, and it is certainly a good-looking one, with a soft focus and hazy depth of field; tree leaves rustle convincingly and thick snowflakes pile up as the camera pans ever right-ward. It appears to make use of this tactile world for a series of physics-based puzzles, like moving rocks to get up on ledges and creating makeshift vines with which to soar across little ponds. These may be very clever puzzles, building toward a resolution that is very satisfying, but I will never know, because I will never…

Somerville
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The aliens in Somerville definitely don’t come in peace

“If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the American Indians.” That quote belongs, unfortunately, to one of the greatest minds of our age, Stephen Hawking. It’s not an uncommon sentiment, of course; popular entertainment has been driving home this idea since Orson Welles’ famous War of the Worlds (1938) broadcast. And it’s Welles that has clear influence on the visuals of Somerville, an upcoming sci-fi game: huge black monoliths loom over a rural community, spitting out all manner of neon terrors…

evening of modern dance 2
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QWOP goes avant-garde in this silly dancing game

I’ll admit upfront that I’m a terrible dancer. Not the kind of terrible that is actually cute. I’m talking the real, awkward kind of terrible. I blame it on being tall. It’s just not easy to make limbs in these proportions move cohesively the way I’d like them to. Maybe that’s why An Evening of Modern Dance caught my attention—it’s easy to see a bit of myself in its hilariously floundering dancers. An Evening of Modern Dance follows in the tumbling footsteps of QWOP (2008) and Octodad (2010), this time bringing ragdoll physics to the stage. Made for Ludum Dare 32 by…

screensaverjamlede
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Screensaver jam results in a colorful throwback to the ’90s

You don’t really see screensavers all that often anymore. I know that when my computer enters sleep mode, I just have it set to display a black screen. It’s the same thing for all my friends as well as most offices I’ve visited since turning 13-years-old. Maybe it’s a consequence of our modern habit of leaving our computers on at all times, since if your computer is constantly sitting asleep in the background, having it display a bright or showy screensaver is just distracting. Or maybe it’s because we don’t need screensavers to protect our displays from burn-in images anymore,…

reaching
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The dizzying art of the cinematic zoom invades videogames

Zooms have long been the crux of dramatic filmmaking. Legendary director Alfred Hitchcock popularized the dizzying camera effect in his classic thriller Vertigo (to, obviously, envelop the viewer in a sense of vertigo). Afterwards, zooms became a trend among filmmakers seeking to add that extra depth of environmental distortion to a shot – sometimes even to comedic success. For videogames, the art of the cinematic zoom is harder to master. In most cases, the player has control over the camera, and cutscenes hardly ever implement such dramatic effects. In reaching, a game borne out of a recent Global Game Jam,…

Told No One
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Secrets sit behind the devilish sound puzzles of Told No One

“You told no one, right?” This is the language we use when speaking of secrets. Something was found out and it must be kept as unknown as possible. It’s telling that Karachi-based artist NAWKSH uses these words to title his videogame Told No One. For it seems to be a tightly woven secret itself. It’s hiding something, perhaps many things, beyond the arcane rituals it tests you with. From the outside, Told No One seems simple enough. The description reads: “five short sound puzzles / interactive experiments in greyscale.” Sounds quite pleasant. But once you head inside it’s immediately clear that…