How Final Fantasy VIII’s Insanity Made it Better

When was the last time you were surprised by a video game? No, I don’t mean an occasional plot twist or the fact that the game turned out to be way better than you were giving it credit at first. I mean when you weren’t ready for anything that a game was going to throw at you. When you thought you knew gaming, but then it pulls you up from the Earth and into the open space to show that there’s a whole new universe beyond the one you were familiar with.

“I envy you. I wish I could go back and do it for the first time, all over again.”
— The Game (1997)

Arguably, you can experience this once in a lifetime.…  

LEGO Worlds [FIRST IMPRESSIONS]

LEGO Worlds
First Impressions

Concept
7/10

Admittedly, the mere concept of LEGO Worlds is what draws me in.  Melding the sensibilities of Minecraft and LEGO itself, its subtle step forward is very exciting.  Of course, much of its concept relies on established tropes and mechanics.  While it’s not building a brand new concept afresh, the ideas and potential it brings to the table seem to be what I wanted from Minecraft in the first place.  However, I can’t deny that the inclusion of greatly varied brick sizes is the main allure in that package.  It makes for much more detailed, enjoyable and artful landscapes, the creation of which is at your beck and call in a variety of interesting ways.  …  

Why Adult Swim’s Kingsway is Set in a Fake ’90s Operating System

If I’ve learned anything from the fringes of comedy in the past year or so, it’s that old-looking shit is apparently hilarious. Not monochrome or vintage, but trashy VHS tapes, pre-internet computers, glitchy edits, and archaic internet junk.

Adult Swim’s new PC game was announced today, complete with a VHS tape-style announcement video. The game itself is set inside a mock operating system reminiscent of the days where Minesweeper and Solitaire were the main digital pastimes.

Interest in VHS distortion hasn’t been this popular since people were searching it to genuinely remedy their failing home cinema systems, and the trend of retro computers is spiking.…  

Soulstorm: ARG Rumblings of an Oddworld

Oddworld Inhabitants are the brains behind Abe and his odysseys.  Certainly a legend of the PS1 era, his spirit has endured with the release of New ‘n’ Tasty in 2014.  After a long hiatus, this reboot of their first game was an exciting return for a company of great integrity.  After all, their preceding outing was Stranger’s Wrath in 2005; a game which knocked them out financially.  While it did cement their legacy critically, a few shady practices by Microsoft would leave the humble studio disenfranchised.  This seems to make sense too, when you consider the philosophical thrust of their work.…  

The Last Guardian [FINAL IMPRESSIONS]

The Last Guardian
Final Impressions

Concept
8/10

The conceptual thrust behind The Last Guardian had me somewhat confused when I first reviewed it.  After a more complete experience it’s clear that my assumptions were right.  For example, the main themes permeating both its story and gameplay are teamwork and friendship.  To expertly explore those thoughts, Trico is a uniquely realised AI mechanic, which anchors the whole thing.  Bringing him to life must have been a daunting prospect in an age where artificial intelligence is so widely weak.  That they took to the task with such flair and determination is laudable in itself, and the end result is entirely one of a kind.  …  

Deep into Freudian Hell with The Binding of Isaac

I’m lying in bed, eyes closed. I’m on one and a half hearts, scouring bloody, bombed out rooms for a health pickup before facing the boss, dodging spiders, rushing past spiked blocks, or setting fire to my mother’s leg as it stomps down from above. Even when I have my eyes closed, I can see the flashing interface, and feel the urgency of my shots and movements.

The Binding of Isaac has taken over my life.

My first reaction to Isaac (and all games of its kind) used to be: “nope, too hard and frustrating”. It was also an unfair eye-roll at it and all games of its kind that seem to rely on outdated mechanics and graphics because of budget.…  

Final Fantasy XV [FINAL IMPRESSIONS]

Hear the writers discuss this subject (and the whole Final Fantasy series) on the Secret Cave Podcast!

My first impressions of Final Fantasy XV came after a mere four hours of toe-dipping.  As a result it was quite naive, occasionally singing praises where it shouldn’t.  Conversely, there were many criticisms that weren’t exactly fair.  There’s much to comment on with this release, and the mix of emotions it can bring about in players is stark.  An equal portion of you is likely to utterly despise it as the side of you that loves it.  With both its successes and its mistakes, it constantly provokes a strong response.  …  

The Last Guardian [FIRST IMPRESSIONS]

The Last Guardian
First Impressions

Concept
7/10

From its opening notes, it’s tough to discern exactly what the designers’ intentions were.  However, the game is clearly about teamwork and forming bonds.  Its unique approach of interacting with a very independent beast is compelling in the extreme.  Beyond that, it seems a slow and contemplative puzzle-platformer.  Under that lens, The Last Guardian is far from unique – even from the creators who made it.  While the ideas at play here are interesting and engaging, it’s admittedly a little thin on the ground.  Its minimalism sometimes undermines it, while also being a credit to its approach.  …  

Final Fantasy XV [FIRST IMPRESSIONS]

Hear the writers discuss this subject (and the whole Final Fantasy series) on the Secret Cave Podcast!

It usually goes one of two ways for people when it comes to the prolific Final Fantasy series.  Most have either never bothered dipping their toes, or have already obsessively played large chunks of their games.  The release of Final Fantasy XV was something I greatly looked forward to, being a firm member of the latter camp.  Of course, i’m far from the only one.  Its announcement, ten years ago, has caused a rich lather of anticipation.  From ridiculously impressive gameplay videos to an entire cinematic offshoot, we’ve had plenty of time to let excitement take hold.  …  

Rockstar Retrospective: Grand Theft Auto III

Hear the writers discuss this subject on the Secret Cave Podcast!

As hopefully the first in a series of “Rockstar Retrospective” articles, I thought it prudent to start with their first 3D foray, Grand Theft Auto III.  Having recently earned the Platinum Trophy on this undoubted classic, I feel in a position to give it a fair and holistic overview.  A diminutive eleven years of age on its day of release, it helps that I hold such vivid memories of its initial impact too.  With that in mind, there’s plenty about the game that screams of bad design – almost in equal measure to the beautiful details found in every corner of the experience.  …