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Review

Homefront: The Revolution is everything wrong with America

By the most recent estimate of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), there are just under 300 non-governmental militias active in the United States. Though the specifics of their agendas vary, their shibboleth is what’s often labeled “insurrection theory,” the supposed right of the body politic to take up arms against tyranny, no matter its source. What constitutes tyranny is rather open to interpretation—one group, Posse Comitatus, rejects the validity of both fiat money and driver’s licenses, along with more familiar grievances about income tax and gun control—but, in every case, there is a common antagonist: an overbearing, conspiratorial government…

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Review

Shadwen is a stealth game trapped in adolescence

Playing a stealth game is like dancing. Or, more accurately, it’s like the evolution of how you approach dancing over the course of your life. Starting out, you’re a junior high pubescent: every move is a little awkward and the rules of appropriate conduct somehow seem both unclear and inviolate. You accidentally put your body in the wrong place and a whole goddamn army of humiliation descends upon you. Then the game progresses, and you’re in high school: you’re starting to get the hang of things, in terms of physically navigating the environment but also in appreciating that while there are…

DOOM
Review

DOOM is another act of rebellion

In the Abrahamic religions—and the texts that have grown out of them—Satan is a fallen angel, cast out of heaven for daring to rebel against God. Though his name is synonymous with fear and evil, it’s Satan’s tireless, implacable need to oppose everything God wills that truly characterizes him. He’s a catch-all for the misfortune of heroes and nations. He’s a scoundrel who’s always up to overturn the plans of the master of the universe.   Back in 1993, id Software’s DOOM was another act of rebellion. Created by a small team of industry upstarts, DOOM (like many contemporary metal…

Glitchspace screenshot
Review

Glitchspace is a part-time shift of fixing bugs

No videogame is perfect. Somewhere lurking in the seams of polygonal landscapes lives the glitch —a graphical hiccup that could lead to characters not loading properly, items malfunctioning, or walls losing their solid form. However, in recent years the glitch has transcended its status as a technical bug to become a populist generative art tool. For example, Assassin’s Creed Unity’s (2014) walking nightmares wouldn’t have existed without errors to prompt them. Someone found an exploit in Dark Souls (2011) that lets you skip most of the game and break speedrun records. And even older videogames have found new life through…

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Review

Ace of Seafood is all too human

Borne onto Steam by a zephyr of Nipponese weirdness, Ace of Seafood is the fish-‘em-up I never knew I was missing. An unsolicited sequel to Neo-Aquarium: The King of Crustaceans (2012), the progenitor and sole occupant of the “armed-lobster-conflict-simulator” genre, Ace of Seafood takes the frenetic pace and visual spectacle of aerial combat and submerges it in the spumy waters of the South Pacific. The results, at least in terms of delirious, absurdist enjoyment, are never less than spectacular. Where else can you watch a school of laser-mouthed chinook salmon issue a salvo against an inexplicably resurrected Bismarck-class battleship? Ace…

Uncharted 4
Review

Uncharted 4 has no regrets

There’s a brief moment in the first hour of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End where Nathan Drake, a retired treasure hunter, combs through the artifacts from his adventures that he keeps in his attic. The space is ruined with meticulous clutter—each individual relic a callback to some grand excursion—and as I explored this makeshift museum, I found myself falling prey to the same fond memories that overtake the game’s protagonist. Sifting through this digital archive prompts Drake to discover his old holster, now holding a toy gun. Almost instinctively, I make him pick it up, and then I steer him…

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Review

Fall of Magic turns everyone into a gifted author

Fall of Magic is the kind of free form storytelling you could do with your friends on the floor just about anywhere. Play some Howard Shore soundtracks in the background, light a few candles, and unroll the scroll. As an engine for creating stories it’s deceptively slight. From the rulebook: “Someone may ask, ‘Is a Raven like the bird?’ or ‘What is a Crab Singer?’ To this we reply: ‘It means what you want it to mean.’” This open-handed approach extends to the rules. A six-sided dice is included but rarely used, and the rest of the game world’s description…

Stephens Sausage Roll
Review

Stephen’s Sausage Roll and the blue collar heroes of puzzledom

I’m a clunky Fisher Price toy on an island made of rough patches. My body, hands, and clothes are probably toxic, blistered and greasy, as I have spent hours pushing and shoving big honkin’ sausages across pipin’ hot grills in taxing and inconvenient ways. I’m not wearing an apron. I am wielding a big fork; a mighty claw that swings in heaves. When raw, these sausages are wormy and pink. Halfway done they look like stogies. Upon being cooked you can smell the continental breakfast through the screen.They are easily the biggest sausages you’ve ever seen in a puzzle game.…

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Review

The joyless heroics of Star Fox Zero

As I sit at my keyboard, trying to figure out what in the world I could possibly say about Star Fox Zero, I find myself forced to concede that there’s not that much wrong with the game as a game. As an engine built to allow players to fly around in a high resolution version of a spaceship apparently built out of triangles, Star Fox Zero is entirely functional. There are things to blow up, which will also seek to blow the player up. There are big spaceships, and big imposing robots with hidden vulnerabilities (which are signaled to the…