Videoball brings fair play back to the couch

I didn’t know what a metagame was until I got to college, but I didn’t really need to. Playing multiplayer games on the couch with my cousins, we’d concoct all sorts of techniques and strategies that weren’t explicitly outlined in the manuals. In Worms 2 (1997), we all fought against each other using only a couple of choice weapons, despite the game’s massive arsenal: the Holy Hand Grenade was devastating and hilarious, the Super Sheep offered range and control, and the Ninja Rope gave us all the mobility we wanted. This is probably not the competitive Worms 2 metagame (I’ve…


Furi knows how to keep a good beat

I’ve been listening to instrumental electronic music for over 20 years, and the most frequent refrain I’ve heard from skeptics is that house, techno, and any number of subgenres is just “too repetitive.” It’s a complaint that I have a difficult time responding to. It’s true that a lot of electronic music is founded on repetition, with entire tracks constructed via loops and samples on step sequencers. But the line between quantitatively defining repetition and qualitatively proclaiming something as “too repetitive” is a matter of personal taste. I always liked the way beats and samples could gradually fold into one…

zero time dilemma

Zero Time Dilemma cuts like a knife

Zero Time Dilemma wants to know how it feels to kill someone. To take someone’s life, whether it’s to ensure your own survival, or someone else’s. What it’s like to be driven mad when you end up in a situation like its protagonists—trapped in an underground shelter, where initiating six acquaintances’ deaths is the only hope for freedom. Zero Time Dilemma wants to answer these questions. But the truth of the matter is that it depends on who you are, where you are, and the context of the situation. And, of course, this being the Zero Escape universe, it also…


Brigador and the joy of total war

In late 1864, the American Civil War had come to a decisive point. The Confederacy’s efforts to bring the war to the North had been effectively routed in the previous year, and the South was forced to take the defensive on its home ground. Ulysses E. Grant, General of the Union Army, sought a way to break the South with minimal loss of life. He found his earth-scorching muse in William Tecumseh Sherman, who proposed a simple strategy that proved to be devastatingly effective. Sherman would have his forces march south through Georgia, and where commanders met with anything less…

Mirror's Edge: Catalyst

Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst, a radical city in a failed system

I’ve always been fascinated by the coherence and incoherence of cities. The system and interface of their streets. The network logic of their rooms. In my fifth year in London, buried in basements fashioned to appear as French cafés or Italian bistros, I obsessively traced the shapes of silver ducts and pipes, interwoven along the ceilings as if they were circuit boards. Among the fake leather seating and off-white walls, the large canvas prints of Parisian street scenes and the art-deco light fixtures they stood out as uniquely functional objects, unornamented, hidden in plain sight. I followed them down flights…


Inside wants to devour you

Everyone who has ever played Éric Chahi’s Another World (1991) remembers the “Beast.” Emerging from a pool of water, you see a four-legged silhouette perched menacingly on a nearby ledge. The creature then exits to the right. On the next screen it appears momentarily in the background, but you’re distracted by the poisonous worms crawling towards you. By the third screen you may have forgotten about it altogether until crossing an invisible threshold triggers it to appear. It snarls. You run. It chases you. But you didn’t run soon enough, and it catches you, kills you, and sends you back…

va-11 hall-a

VA-11 Hall-A is how you do modern cyberpunk

“Time to mix drinks and save lives.” Jill lackadaisically jazzes herself up with this line at the start of every shift, unknowing of just who will waltz through the door. But what I soon find out is that Jill is kinda lost. The 27-year-old bartender resides in a run-down apartment, barely scraping by when it comes to bills, rent, and impulsive buys, like cute posters or a plant. Jill is lost in the same way that her regulars—patrons of the dive bar VA-11 Hall-A (colloquially called “Valhalla”)—are lost. She’s caught within an average life, with the only fulfillment she gets…


Slain! is a disappointing death growl

Heavy metal is the musical and theatrical manifestation of mankind’s lizard brain. It’s an auditory siege that rifles through our ancient and violent nature that was once necessary to survive. This music transmutes those base emotions through myth, metaphor, and performance through modern instrumentation, impossible without electrical amplification. The costumes vary from latex to bullet belts, corpse paint to standard issue black, and on the stage the lights are kept low or flashing. Every note and image is calculated and well-rehearsed, because metal thrives in the extremes and requires complete attention to maintain the shared illusion for everyone at the…


OmniBus can’t stop, won’t stop

Beating one of the levels in OmniBus means driving over a ramp, bonking the head off a statue, and careening into a set of bowling pins before turning right-side up to drive straight into the endless blue ocean. I take no responsibility for that last part. After you beat any of the game’s levels you can continue to watch the titular OmniBus drive in its configuration—whether that’s straight ahead, doing donuts, or otherwise. This is consistent because your foot wasn’t on the gas pedal to begin with, and this is a driving game with no brakes. Strap in buckos, your…