The Curious Expedition

The Curious Expedition is a disturbing portrait of the colonial mind

I could think of any number of better titles for The Curious Expedition. Here’s a few: Colonialism Simulator 1900; Literal Tomb Raider; Uncharted 5: The White Man’s Burden. Virtually anything seems better than the title the game actually has. You do embark on an expedition every time you play it—an adventure into foreign jungles on the other side of the world, where priceless treasures, golden pyramids, and possibly dinosaurs lie in wait. But “curious” seems like an incredibly inappropriate word for what you end up doing there. You will almost always encounter a tribe of “natives”—language and culture unspecified, because…


Masquerada is about as enjoyable as a dictionary

Delivered in the middle of Big Game season, Masquerada looks at first like a welcome relief from war, VR, and Watch Dogs 2’s emoji mask. The masks in its world are a different kind of grotesque. They separate the haves and the have-nots in a rigidly stratified sorta-Venetian society, granting elemental powers to elites who dress like every day is carnival. The conceit feels fresh, and the city of Ombre is boldly drawn, with heavy black borders around tents and troops to set off freehand suggestions of grass blades and thin ruled lines of stone. The protagonist, Cicero Gavar, dashes…


Thoth isn’t here to make friends

Thoth works on certain illusions. A static screenshot would make you think this twin-stick shooter is more in line with Jeppe Carlsen’s previous game—the rhythm-based, minimalist platformer 140 (2013)—or that your dot in Thoth is kettled in against mean squares that look like descendants to Geometry War’s (2003) shapes. Thoth may only have a few matted colors at a time, but it is very loud; a mouse that roars. it invokes stages of fear Those squares, and many other bad shapes, are 3D in a 2D world. The way they float appears more like a gelatin warble, or a figure…

Red Dead Redemption

From the magazine: Red Dead Redemption, Reviewed

This article first appeared in Kill Screen’s relaunched magazine, Issue 9, which you can buy right now!  Header illustration by Christopher Black /// In 2003, HBO released And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself, a lavish TV movie about a Mexican revolutionary who makes a deal with Hollywood to film, and star in, his own battle. Antonio Banderas plays Pancho Villa full of preening swagger, yet a strange kind of naivete—the naivete of someone already trying on the gilded robes of myth, already saving a parking spot on Olympus, boasting like Beowulf before the fact. The battle does not go as he…


Aragami is a shadow of what it could be

In 1995, the Guinness World Records Committee officially decreed that a parakeet named Puck had the largest vocabulary of any bird in the world. Puck knew 1,728 words, and like others of his species, was able to assemble them into phrases and sentences appropriate to the situation he was in. “It’s Christmas,” he was heard to say on the proper day in 1993: “That’s what’s happening; that’s what it’s all about.” Puck might have been exceptionally literate, but he was only one voice in a diverse avian chorus. Amazon and African Grey parrots are known for their conversational skills, as…


Thumper is here for a beatdown

I’ve only been to one Lightning Bolt concert in my life, but it left a serious impression on me. The band—comprised of duo Brian Gibson on bass and Brian Chippendale on drums and vocals—set up their gear on the floor in front of the stage with a stacked wall of amps behind them. The music is loud and fast, a flurry of noise-metal bass churn, blistering drum rhythms, and distorted, indecipherable shouts. The crowd was a compact mass of bodies, not so much a mosh pit as a sweaty blob fighting against the shape of its container. There was no…


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

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…


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…