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…

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…

Homeworld Deserts of Kharak
Review

The inescapable echoes of Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak

It might have been the cruise missiles that triggered it. One of a string of upgrades nudged towards me by my commanding officer, charting the slow expansion of my carrier’s already formidable arsenal. It was the name— cruise missiles— that was so distant from science fiction, so connected to a sideshow of images of war. It would have been the 1990s when I first saw a cruise missile launch, the flashcut plume of smoke followed closely by the hammerblow of ignition—the camera whiteout as its automatic exposure struggled to account for the solid-fuel flare that drove the missile until it was a distant…

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…

ice-bound_3
Review

Death of the author: A Review of The Ice-Bound Concordance

In the glacial caverns beneath a polar research facility, someone hears a distant groan. No, that’s not right. Maybe she hears laughter instead, but that goes against the tone of the piece—an air of mystery with a heavy sense of foreboding. Distant whispers… no, faint whispers breathing through the ice makes far more sense. Changing that bit of language, of course, only fits one particular moment in a much larger narrative. Still, it feels significant enough given the delicate nature that comes with editing a novel—especially one written by the author’s digital ghost. Such are the considerations needed in The…

the westport independent
Review

The Westport Independent does*** ***** understand censorship

The Westport Independent is a game about journalism. And so, in the interests of good journalism, a full disclosure is in order: I was employed as an editor at a newspaper company in Hong Kong, the South China Morning Post Group, from 2012-2015. This is important because The Westport Independent is, specifically, a game about the self-censoring of journalism. And the South China Morning Post is a frequent target for accusations of self-censorship due to pressure from the Chinese Communist Party. I’ve seen self-censorship happen and I’ve seen it been falsely accused. Point is, I know it when I see…

nuclearthronelede
Review

Nuclear Throne is hotter than a smoking gun

For a game that has zero puzzle elements Nuclear Throne sure feels like a seeing-eye puzzle. If I keep at it long enough I will eventually see the fire truck or star or whatever image it is hiding. There’s a sense that if I stay with it one more turn I’ll land on a magic run that sends me to the eponymous Nuclear Throne where I’ll be a king of the wasteland, like Immortan Joe, or anyone more flattering. The Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) comparison goes more than skin deep. The world of Nuclear Throne is overrun with bandits and…

aviary_attorney_0
Review

Aviary Attorney does justice to employed cartoon animals everywhere

That crows can use adaptable tools or that pigeons possess facial recognition should only surprise the doubtful. Birds have always held a knack for observation, logic, even deduction. But I don’t need science’s testament or anecdotal evidence to reinforce the intelligence of our airborne confidants. I have always known that “birdbrain” was a misconstrued insult, even if a number of them have tried to eat me in the past. I have known these things as I, a mere cartoon frog who reviews videogames, have always recognized and been inspired by the remarkable legacy of Jayjay Falcon, the 19th century bird…

Oxenfree_Review
Review

Oxenfree glows with teenage charm

The internet has been quietly buzzing about Oxenfree. Its status is held as the next über-cool opus of teenage ennui. But, for a second, forget all of that. Let’s just look at the damn thing. Oxenfree takes place on a small island in the Pacific Northwest; a tourist spot frequented after dark by local high-schoolers who go there to party. The scale and beauty of the place are often breathtaking, with hills and cliffs that rise high over the ocean, beaches that open onto uninterrupted sea, and giant caves that hide creepy illusions. Walking trails crisscross the island, taking Alex…