witness lights
Review

The unrelenting science of The Witness

When I played a demo version of The Witness at a Sony event in 2013, I was offered two approaches: 1) I could be lead through a basic tutorial of the way the game’s puzzle systems work, or 2) I could be left to wander around the island landscape and discover it at my whim. I chose the latter option, only encountered a handful of the game’s signature line-tracing puzzle panels, and spent the rest of my time gawking at the natural and architectural framework of the island. I strolled down to a seashore under a desert cliff where a…

Amelie-1176
Feature

Inside the mind games of cinema’s dangerous romances

Actress Marion Cotillard’s obvious allure brings the young Polish girl of the slums, Sophie Kowalsky, to life in Jeu d’Enfants (2003). It’s the ultimate film français, featuring a teasingly­ surreal yet ­realistic mind-­fucking game of cat­-and­-mouse ­that you won’t forget anytime soon. Sophie’s childhood bond with Julien plunges them into a game of mind­-morphing dares (“cap ou pas cap?”) that is both timeless and inescapable. And yet their game is not a prison­­. It gives the two jeunesse the freedom to fearlessly confront their impulses and invite one another into their own uniquely intellectual world as the heat and intensity…

deadly tower of monsters
Review

The Deadly Tower of Monsters revels in the schlock of B-movies

Bad movies can be a laugh to watch. It’s best done with a certain camaraderie, a group of buddies getting together to voluntarily partake in schlock, probably with alcohol and snacks to push them through it.Hell, Mystery Science Theater 3000’s (1988-99) Joel Hodgson has made an entire career out of that idea alone. But stripped of the jokes, there’s only so many rubber-masked martians and tin foil spaceships held aloft by fishing wire that your average viewer can tolerate. Let’s be real: no one is earnestly watching 1950s camp like This Island Earth (1955) for its cinematic merits. The cornball…

gravityrushlead
Feature

Falling through 100 million stories in Gravity Rush: Remastered

Gravity Rush (2012) director Keiichiro Toyama didn’t choose horror, it chose him. His first game as director, Silent Hill (1999), was assigned to him by his bosses at Konami. A stranger to horror as well as a self-professed scaredy-cat, in order to find his feet Toyama turned away from schlock and gore and towards those softer influences that did appeal to him: occult practices, mystery stories, and evidently enough, the work of David Lynch. Silent Hill’s thoughtful, ambiguous atmosphere may have gone on to define survival horror, but it also went on to define Toyama’s career. Which is why Gravity Rush,…

Unravel
Review

Unravel wants to help us mourn, but doesn’t know how

Unravel begins with a letter from its creators that thanks you for purchasing the game. It explains to you the power of the medium, the senses of love and loneliness about to be explored, and how long they as a team have been pouring their hearts into it. The font and spacing makes it resemble the prelude to Thriller (1983), where Michael Jackson promises that he does not worship the devil. A game that signals its own history and globe of emotions as active parts, Unravel began for audiences last year when Coldwood Interactive’s creative director Martin Sahlin was called to the…

Kentucky Route Zero
Feature

Meditating on Kentucky Route Zero

The first moment that Kentucky Route Zero (2013) throws a surreal curveball at you feels like a wake-up call. A character you’ve just met has finished fixing a TV, which doesn’t focus the picture on the screen as you expect, but somehow switches the barn outside the nearby window for a cave entrance. The transition is hard to grasp—a sleight of hand trick that holds up under scrutiny. As the camera zooms in, the edges of the entrance smudge against the landscape, unconnected to anything, like a hole has been painted into the scenery. A truck pulls in front of…

Chaucer
Feature

Role-playing games are just like medieval oral culture

You’re woken from your slumber by the piercing cries of a man in agony and the splintering of wood. The room is dark, though the glowing embers in the grate cast a dull glow across rapidly moving shapes. All about you is pandemonium: guttural panicked sounds of man and beast. Its stench strikes your attention before you realize it’s stood beside you but in the fire’s dying glow you can see the heft of a large arm reaching out to grab you. Roll for initiative. /// Hwaet. This word—usually translated as “listen”—marks the opening of Beowulf, one of the rarest…

bond
Feature

How videogames are changing the action movie

Something strange happens with the camera at the start of Spectre (2015). The movie opens with a wide view of an elaborate Day of the Dead parade in Mexico City. We’re then shown a villain before focusing on James Bond, who starts to follow this villain. Bond and a woman then go into a hotel and he leaves her by exiting through a window onto the rooftop, where he prepares to shoot his target. It’s a standard set-up for a Bond film, but throughout all of this, the camera doesn’t seem to cut away, not once. The entire opening is…

spaceteam
Review

The Spaceteam card game will make you wanna shout

“The future is disorder.” –Tom Stoppard, Arcadia /// The Spaceteam card game is chaos. Like its forebear on Android and Apple, it’s a cooperative game that forces you and some friends to scramble with tools and ailing apparatuses to fix your spaceship before you are swallowed by a black hole. As an adaptation, it’s faithful to the frenetic shouting of the original Spaceteam (2012), which was itself a faithful homage to the technobabble of Star Trek and giant-mecha sci-fi films. Instead of a digital interface, this iteration replaces it with cards and a timer, which are easier to wipe clean of…