Review

Pavilion and the maze as metaphor

When I was younger, I got lost in the works of Jorge Luis Borges. In my hubris, I assumed I “got” him in a way that would let me use the tools of literary study to recognize patterns, symbols, and themes. His hermetic prose held secrets that I thought I had unlocked in my sophomoric self-satisfaction. I assured myself that knowing Borges’ favorite subjects, like mazes and infinite libraries, are actually metaphors for the text itself was a revelation that only I and a few select others could hold dear. I was wrong, of course. Not about the obvious readings,…

Gears of War 4
Review

Gears of War 4 tries to cover up its battle scars

Two moments stick out from Gears of War 4. In one, a geyser of blood shoots from the exoskeleton of an enormous, crablike Corpser as the Hammer of Dawn—a satellite-guided laser—rains a beam of molten death down upon it. Fountains of gore flow from the creature like a waterfall while serious, beefy dudes in massive armor run accompanying waves of monsters through with a typhoon of bullets. In another, later scene, sparks fly off a metal-plated security robot as new protagonist JD Fenix plinks it apart with a submachine gun. He makes lighthearted, Whedon-esque quips to his pals and wears…

Review

Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 is a remix too far

Things have been looking up for Pac-Man lately. Pac-Man 256 made a huge splash on phones last year, and the gluttonous pie chart recently showed up in several collaborations with Google, including map mods and playable Doodles. There was that dreadful Adam Sandler movie too, which, quality aside, did effectively remind the general public that Pac-Man still exists and still really enjoys eating things. motivated more by the need to reinvent than improve This modern-day Pac-Man resurgence was spurred on by its original creator, Toru Iwatani, back in 2007 with the release of Pac-Man Championship Edition (Iwatani’s final game before…

Review

Beglitched starts the cyberpink revolution

I struggle every Halloween to decide on a costume. I’ve dressed up as all the basics: a black cat, a vampire, a witch—twice. But Beglitched may have saved me the hassle this year. It has introduced to me a whole new concept: a cyberpink computer witch. Now, the title computer witch itself would be cool enough. You could say, “thanks for that idea, Beglitched,” and be done. But the computer witches of Beglitched want you not only to know about them, but to become one of them. As such, they dump you in the middle of their cyberpink witching hour,…

Destiny Rise of Iron
Review

Destiny: Rise of Iron has learned nothing

I was at E3 when Destiny was first shown to the world in 2013. I remember being shepherded into a theater, the outside marked with huge printed artwork, among a group of whispering journalists. In that theater, we would be taken through the opening to the game: the wall, the breach, the first areas of the Cosmodrome. The person demonstrating the game spawned at what I now know—after hundreds of hours in Destiny’s world—to be the hard edge of the map. But back then I had no idea where this sprawling landscape ended, where its invisible walls lay. So as…

Review

Dead of Winter: The Long Night is a survivor

The Andes Flight Disaster of 1972 is infamous for the part about the cannibalism. On October 13th, a chartered Fairchild FH-227D crashed on the spine of the Andes between Chile and Argentina. A search was conducted for just over a week, leaving the team stranded. After two months of starvation, frostbite, and sickness, the Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571’s original 45 members had dwindled to 16, who all had to resort to eating the dead to survive. The survivors were all part of a rugby union, all Roman Catholic, and operated as a team: they salvaged together, they kept warm…

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…