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Review

Everyone should be squirming to play Push Me Pull You

Sweating, writhing, fleshy worms are locked in combat with each other. Their two heads and four arms struggle to maintain dominance over one another. It’s a vicious and gross game of sport. And yet it is somehow completely, utterly adorable. Push Me Pull You lands somewhere between sumo wrestling, a soccer match, and the body-horror nightmare of The Human Centipede (2010). It has two teams of two players competing to gain control of the ball on a playfield, each pair working together to wriggle their conjoined bodies cooperatively to score points. The maneuvers available to each player at either end…

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Review

Homefront: The Revolution is everything wrong with America

By the most recent estimate of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), there are just under 300 non-governmental militias active in the United States. Though the specifics of their agendas vary, their shibboleth is what’s often labeled “insurrection theory,” the supposed right of the body politic to take up arms against tyranny, no matter its source. What constitutes tyranny is rather open to interpretation—one group, Posse Comitatus, rejects the validity of both fiat money and driver’s licenses, along with more familiar grievances about income tax and gun control—but, in every case, there is a common antagonist: an overbearing, conspiratorial government…

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Review

Shadwen is a stealth game trapped in adolescence

Playing a stealth game is like dancing. Or, more accurately, it’s like the evolution of how you approach dancing over the course of your life. Starting out, you’re a junior high pubescent: every move is a little awkward and the rules of appropriate conduct somehow seem both unclear and inviolate. You accidentally put your body in the wrong place and a whole goddamn army of humiliation descends upon you. Then the game progresses, and you’re in high school: you’re starting to get the hang of things, in terms of physically navigating the environment but also in appreciating that while there are…

DOOM
Review

DOOM is another act of rebellion

In the Abrahamic religions—and the texts that have grown out of them—Satan is a fallen angel, cast out of heaven for daring to rebel against God. Though his name is synonymous with fear and evil, it’s Satan’s tireless, implacable need to oppose everything God wills that truly characterizes him. He’s a catch-all for the misfortune of heroes and nations. He’s a scoundrel who’s always up to overturn the plans of the master of the universe.   Back in 1993, id Software’s DOOM was another act of rebellion. Created by a small team of industry upstarts, DOOM (like many contemporary metal…

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Review

Glitchspace is a part-time shift of fixing bugs

No videogame is perfect. Somewhere lurking in the seams of polygonal landscapes lives the glitch —a graphical hiccup that could lead to characters not loading properly, items malfunctioning, or walls losing their solid form. However, in recent years the glitch has transcended its status as a technical bug to become a populist generative art tool. For example, Assassin’s Creed Unity’s (2014) walking nightmares wouldn’t have existed without errors to prompt them. Someone found an exploit in Dark Souls (2011) that lets you skip most of the game and break speedrun records. And even older videogames have found new life through…

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Review

Ace of Seafood is all too human

Borne onto Steam by a zephyr of Nipponese weirdness, Ace of Seafood is the fish-‘em-up I never knew I was missing. An unsolicited sequel to Neo-Aquarium: The King of Crustaceans (2012), the progenitor and sole occupant of the “armed-lobster-conflict-simulator” genre, Ace of Seafood takes the frenetic pace and visual spectacle of aerial combat and submerges it in the spumy waters of the South Pacific. The results, at least in terms of delirious, absurdist enjoyment, are never less than spectacular. Where else can you watch a school of laser-mouthed chinook salmon issue a salvo against an inexplicably resurrected Bismarck-class battleship? Ace…

Uncharted 4
Review

Uncharted 4 has no regrets

There’s a brief moment in the first hour of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End where Nathan Drake, a retired treasure hunter, combs through the artifacts from his adventures that he keeps in his attic. The space is ruined with meticulous clutter—each individual relic a callback to some grand excursion—and as I explored this makeshift museum, I found myself falling prey to the same fond memories that overtake the game’s protagonist. Sifting through this digital archive prompts Drake to discover his old holster, now holding a toy gun. Almost instinctively, I make him pick it up, and then I steer him…

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Review

Fall of Magic turns everyone into a gifted author

Fall of Magic is the kind of free form storytelling you could do with your friends on the floor just about anywhere. Play some Howard Shore soundtracks in the background, light a few candles, and unroll the scroll. As an engine for creating stories it’s deceptively slight. From the rulebook: “Someone may ask, ‘Is a Raven like the bird?’ or ‘What is a Crab Singer?’ To this we reply: ‘It means what you want it to mean.’” This open-handed approach extends to the rules. A six-sided dice is included but rarely used, and the rest of the game world’s description…

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Review

Fragments of Him finds the everyday poetry of grief

It is very, very hard to talk about death and grief without falling into platitudes. But we have the elegy to save us from the cliché—that form of poem or writing that seeks to capture the abyssal depths of the writer’s despair over the absence of the departed and impart some singular meaning to that life and its end. Take, for example, the nineteenth-century poet, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, who wrote In Memoriam, A.H.H. (1849) in response to the sudden death of his closest friend and future brother-in-law sixteen years earlier. The book consists of over one hundred and thirty smaller…