Quantum Break
Review

Quantum Break is better TV than videogame

In Remedy Entertainment’s Max Payne (2001) and Alan Wake (2010), the player can approach television sets and watch short, surprisingly detailed videos. In Max Payne, these include soapy melodrama Lords and Ladies and the paranoiac, Lynch-riffing Address Unknown. Alan Wake sticks to a Twilight Zone-inspired anthology series called Night Springs. These TV shows are worth mentioning as a reminder that Remedy has never been shy about recognizing its influences. As such, Max Payne is a blend of Hong Kong cinema gunplay and conspiracy-laden noir. While Alan Wake is a Stephen King thriller filtered through the lens of Twin Peaks and…

Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor
Review

Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor is a treasure among the trash

There is a sense, in videogames particularly, that the greatest science fiction is that with the budget to match its ideas. Most sci-fi games seem engaged in a kind of arms race, a process of trying to out-tech and out-spectacle each other with increasing elaborate retellings of the “save the galaxy” narrative. Yet, in many ways this is the realm of the blockbuster, not of science fiction as a genre. The most impactful sci-fi of the past was not that which hammered the most fancy widgets onto a five-act quest structure, but that which abstracted, twisted, and expanded the struggles…

darkestdungeon
Review

Darkest Dungeon’s unpredictable terrors get inside your head

His foot slipped, and Kugel the cleric fell toward the lava that was rapidly filling the chamber. He seemed oddly resigned, taking no immediate actions to alter his fate. “Perhaps this is the end of Kugel,” he whispered as his boots hit the magma. Darvin the fighter, too high up to be of immediate help but ever the problem-solver, called down to the monk Talia, beseeching her to extend her staff for Kugel to grab. But a sudden fit of selfishness had taken hold of the monk. “I don’t think so,” she replied calmly. “I really like this staff. It’s…

xcom2-3
Review

Author in the machine: An XCOM 2 Review

Vigilo Confido goes the motto of the titular fighting force in Firaxis Studio’s excellent XCOM 2. To any English speaker, even one without any specialized knowledge of Latin, the meaning of the motto appears self-evident. Vigilo—vigil, vigilance, or something to that effect—and confido—obviously, confidence. Or . . . wait, is it confidential? In fact, the Latin is intensely and conspicuously ambiguous. Depending on whether or not those final “o”’s are read as nonal case endings or verb conjugations (to say nothing of the tense), defensible translations of Vigilo Confido include everything from “I Am Watchful; I Am Relied Upon” to…

wheels of aurelia (race)
Review

Wheels of Aurelia sputters onto the race track

Elevator pitches have the benefit of being ideas rather than actual things in the real world. With the right pitch just about anything can sound promising. Take communism, for instance—a system that, on paper, reads like an egalitarian haven, promising equality, fairness, and a stable life for everyone. It often doesn’t play out so well when put into practice, but the idea captivates so much that it lead to countless wars, dictatorships, and deaths. Wheels of Aurelia, set in a 1970s Italy reeling from feminism, communism, revolution, and terrorism, sounds better as an idea than it plays. You are Lella,…

ReCore
Review

ReCore buries its head in the sand

“The old dog barks backwards without getting up. I can remember when he was a pup.” — Robert Frost, “The Span of Life” /// ReCore was supposed to be about a woman and her dog—her robotic dog. Its biggest fault is that it isn’t. Joule is part of a group of colonists sent to Far Eden after Earth became uninhabitable. She’s been in cryosleep for a long, long time—Mack, her robot dog, has been chasing his tail for at least a century, I guess. She awakes to find herself alone on Far Eden; the terraforming process there having failed. Corebots…

Virginia
Review

Virginia needs to go back to film school

Every film studies student is forced to watch an infant in a carriage careen down a staircase to its death. They do this because it’s important. The Odessa Steps sequence in Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin (1925) is a Cinema Studies 101-level text in film editing. As a theorist, Eisenstein, together with contemporary Lev Kuleshov, argued for a cinema built on the revolutionary effect of montage: meaning was created in the edit. In Battleship Potemkin, this meant a shot of a horrorstuck face and that shot of the runaway baby carriage played on the audience’s then-fledgling grasp on cinematic language. Terror…

The Tomorrow Children
Review

The Tomorrow Children would fail a history exam

The Cold War refuses to separate itself from the West’s understanding of the Soviet Union. Decades of apocalyptic rivalry have painted its immensely diverse citizenry as, by turns, dispassionate murderers or buffoonish caricatures. On one hand is Stalin, casually signing the paperwork that ordered the mass killings and deportations of the Great Purge; on the other are the workers and soldiers of the Union, imagined as simple-minded enough to follow the suicidal directives of their leaders. One of the most staggeringly unusual empires in human history has, in popular consciousness, been watered down to a collection of non-thinking laborers, power-hungry…

Event[0]
Review

Event[0] will break your humanity

The ‘80s linger on today through the afterglow of throwback culture. Stranger Things is probably the most-discussed TV show this year, likely due to the fact that it feeds purely on our nostalgia for ‘80s cinema classics from the likes of Spielberg. Then there’s Everybody Wants Some, which is essentially Dazed and Confused (1993) but set in the ‘80s—based on college yearbooks and films from the era, it almost serves as a guidebook for vintage fashion. Now there’s Event[0], which feeds off this same energy, even if it doesn’t involve disco dancing and cute aliens on bicycles. Most of your…