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Monthly Archives: January 2013

I want to say contemporary fantasy, but fantasy is the wrong word, maybe. Spiritual. I mean, the fantastical elements are there, but not central, and more a subtle mythology textured across the world than any set of governing ideas. The moments of strange are stronger for the space between them. Reminds me of superhero stuff in Lethem’s Fortress of Solitude. It’s a slow, somber build of a story.

Central characters are very well-developed, but the rest are sketches and the villain/s especially lack/s any solid threat. Their mission is ill-defined and inconsistent, which is interesting, but not as interesting as it could be.

Lots of flashbacks. Works well through the first 2/3, but the last third sees too many of varying lengths and structure and even dips into another character’s perspective for an extended one. It dicks with the pacing.

Revelations toward the finish feel inevitable and unsurprising.

Still, I enjoyed it for the strength of Ricky Rice’s character. He comes out of it stronger. Also, almost all the characters are black. I wouldn’t recommend reading it for that one reason, but it adds to the argument for me, having little exposure to that perspective and especially in fantasy. You can feel it in the character’s voices & vocabulary and there’s no a descent into stereotype or caricature. Refreshing.

Ending ties up the central story, sort of, but leaves plenty others hanging. Sequel? Thinking just of the character arc of Ricky Rice, it’s satisfying.

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The Walking Dead won’t ask much from you, technically. There really aren’t any puzzles. The controls are easy to pick up, and any action is limited to quick time events. It won’t ask you to choose between difficulty levels, or offer you a hardcore mode. It’s not hard.

The Walking Dead will ask you for your soul. It’ll ask how much value you place on a human life, and if that value can be ripped away. You’ll be given the powers of life and death, in some cases, and in other encounters that power will be stripped from you without ceremony. You’ll see monsters, and maybe you’ll be one. It’s debilitating.

Split up into episodes, Telltale has produced a powerful piece of sequential storytelling. Taken as a whole? It’s a keystone, a story lodged permanently both in my brain and that of the greater games consciousness.

The Walking Dead’s structure might not offer as many tentacles as a Mass Effect or KOTOR. You’ll see the same dialogue options, that conversation as gameplay (sans those pesky, binary morality systems), but with the heft of a tailored narrative. In a game like Mass Effect, you feel like the center of gravity, like you have the power to influence the arc of every character around you—and the universe itself. But in The Walking Dead, as just one desperate survivor among many, it almost feels like other players are clicking through their own dialogue options behind each character. Systems spin in conjunction with—and often splinter against—your own. The story finds the same major beats each time, but the path is twisted and personal.

One of the reasons these characters feel so much like real people is the superb writing. Voices and delivery are thick with personality, and each one is drawn bold  without sliding into archetype. Kenny is a brash, stubborn family man. Lilly, wracked with insecurity, tries to stay strong and keep everyone equal. Clementine is sweet with a spine of steel.

And Lee, the player character, is who you want him to be. He’s defined by his past just enough to give you a framework to which you bolt your own moralities and priorities. There’s plenty of room to see yourself reflected in his words, his actions, and the marks he leaves on what’s left of the world.

The presentation gives the game’s heart a perfect skin. Cel-shaded graphics call back to the comics and offer a bold, vibrant vision of the post-apocalypse. Settings are decorated with little details and given clear boundaries. The voice acting is incredible, and the remaining sound design subtly supports each scene—at its most effective when it empties out the world and leaves you with silence.

Like I said at the start: you won’t be challenged by the mechanics. It plays pretty much like a point-and-click adventure. If this bothers you, try and look past it. Play it for the narrative. This isn’t an experience you should skip.

If you care even slightly about story in games, you should play The Walking Dead. You should think about what it asks of you. And you should take a part of it away when you’re done.

alright, so here’s my problem with looking for alaska:

i haven’t read twilight, but one of the complaints i hear most often is that bella is just a placeholder for the reader. she just has a few basic character traits (clumsy, low self-esteem, etc) so the average reader could easily identify, but somehow a super handsome bloodsucker falls for her.

pudge is totally the same. we barely find out anything about him (he memorizes last words and he’s skinny, or something) and he’s totally average in every other way. he starts smoking and drinking because his new friends do. he’s a very passive member of their group. his character is defined ALMOST TOTALLY by his big ol’ crush on this girl. i can’t quote it, but one line somewhere in there is “she’s so magical and beautiful and great and i’m just so lame and boring ho hum.”

(i do appreciate that her character works as a deconstructed mpdg. her quirks and erratic behavior/moods are depicted as unhealthy as often as they are endearing, more than can be said for a lot of similar characters.)

when she dies, it’s actually pretty emotionally effective because i’m accessing my own grief, because pudge isn’t enough of a character to have his own. i like that he’s forced to confront his idea of her vs. the reality of her, but that second part of the book feels rushed and all over the place tonally.

i think i might like it better if it started with her death and he reflected on their time together in flashbacks. would mix things up a little better, maybe.

of course, i’m not even in the same neighborhood as the target audience for this book.

It wrenched me forward from the first chapters and only lost momentum in the last. A little bit The Unwritten, a little bit everyman. Some fun diversions with the text and typography themes. Unpredictable in themes and concepts, if not in plot and character progression.

Somehow, this is the first time I’ve played through Ico. Blind spots.

It’s kind of beautiful. Escort quests are notoriously bad. They feel tacked on, don’t mesh well with other mechanics. But in Ico, escort is the core mechanic. Yorda serves as your health bar, your key, your purpose.

This is reinforced in the hand-holding. That physical connection not only makes it easy to direct her, but heightens the emotional. It has texture.

Combat is a skeleton of an afterthought, which is fine. It makes the few upgrades you find, which add nothing of the mechanics or style, still feel monumental.

Environments are spectacular. It reminded me of Dark Souls, exploring ancient castles and revealing secret paths, without the hanging sense of dread and stiff-backbone caution. A sense of discovery. The scale of the castle when you first emerge from the innards and out onto one of the massive walkways.

The ending is satisfying, a resolution and a soft, chewy center of potential. I’m looking forward to Shadow of the Colossus next.

A misdirect followed by a fantastical tour of the diabolical.

What does the Devil mean to us? Along with his companions (the jester, the knight, the fool, the witch) he swivels the whole of Moscow on its axis and shakes loose the city’s structure. His efforts are more unrelenting than evil. But I mean, really only slightly less evil than what you might expect from typical depictions of Satan.

It’s cut through with passages of a novel (written by the titular Master) about Pontius Pilate, and describes an alternate but recognizable crucifixion, along with subsequent events and those leading up to it. These were less interesting to me. But I’m sure they mean something.

I liked it. Not too long. Vivid and unexpected in atypical places.