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.  …   [continue reading]

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.  …   [continue reading]

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.  …   [continue reading]

A Case for Luigi

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

Mario is the proud progenitor of the world’s very best selling video game franchise.  His titles have influenced almost every generation of home console and he’s entertained countless individuals internationally – from the young to the old.  With that in mind, what of his younger brother – Luigi?  Since Mario has clearly taken the fore, Luigi’s been conversely left in a large and imposing shadow.  This has had the effect of rendering him vastly more interesting over the years, despite his sidekick trappings.  While he’s only held three true starring roles in his “career” (in Mario is Missing! …   [continue reading]

Online Multiplayer: The Addictive and Infuriating Barrier

I used to hate the idea of online multiplayer.

I grew up on single player behemoths; Jak and Daxter, Ratchet and Clank, Spyro, Crash Bandicoot, Dark Cloud, and Devil May Cry. Why would I play against other people when I had hours of challenging enjoyment ahead of me?

In my mind, online multiplayer (when it came about, that is) was just asking to get yourself trashed, then screamed at by someone half your age with double your free time to practice.

That’s not fun – that’s masochism.

Gaming nerd and movie over-analyzer. Has credits on Appcues, Usability Geek, and Process Street, but comes to Secret Cave to unwind and spit the shit.
…   [continue reading]

The Unsettling Evolution of Video Game Storylines

Hear the Secret Cave writers discuss this topic on episode 1 and episode 2 of our podcast.

Last week on the first episode of the Secret Cave podcast, I decided to start a bit of an argument. The statement was as follows:

“If a game doesn’t have a storyline, it’s shit.”

It’s not my opinion, or even something I’d thought deeply about, but I did have a bit of an idea what I meant by it.

For a start, I want to differentiate between the types of story games can have:

  1. Implied story: A story that can be gleaned from sparse dialog, box art, visual clues, and wider context
  2. Forced story: A story that is inextricably part of the game, like many RPGs

An example of type 1 would be Minecraft, where paintings and hidden content tells the story.…   [continue reading]

Death of a Legend

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

It seems, as gamers, that Mario and his Mushroom Kingdom associates have been with us from the beginning.  Of course, they haven’t.  What’s important about Shigeru Miyamoto’s work on the Mario series is that it almost invalidated everything that came before.  With some, indeed many, exceptions, most that preceded it suddenly seemed like mere experimental prodding towards something of greater importance.  Perhaps i’m overstating Mario’s power but that’s, at least, how it seems on the wide open surface.  Having already set the watermark high with his first outings, he would only continue that trend for the decades ahead – reinventing the platforming genre at every turn and outclassing his peers with ease.…   [continue reading]

Copying Clickbait In An Overwatch “Clone”

Booting up, the main thought being that it’s free, so at least I’m only wasting time if it’s shit.

Fiddle about with login details for 15 minutes – who knows what my bloody password for Smite was?

Music sounds a bit Overwatch-y.

Get kicked into a tutorial with Soldier 76. Wait, sorry, “Viktor“. He’s Russian. Totally different

overwatch clone - viktor

So we get abilities with cooldowns, a primary weapon with infinite ammo but a limited clip, and an ultimate that doesn’t get lost when I die.

Wonder what abilities vodka-toss over here gets? … Oh. Great start that. I love it when one of my defining “abilities” is fucking iron sights.…   [continue reading]

The Deadly Tower of Monsters [FIRST IMPRESSIONS]

The Deadly Tower of Monsters
First Impressions

Concept
7/10

This is a game full of little innovative ideas in both its gameplay and approach to storytelling.  They mostly keep its more pedestrian elements afloat, which are generally well implemented anyway.  It lulls you into thinking it’s less original than it actually is, before smashing you with a surprising number of inventive twists.  Quite an old-school approach throughout is lent a nostalgic feel rather than a stale one.

Gameplay
7/10

Quickly building on elements we’ve seen numerous times before, the bare bones of this game are fundamentals we are all well aware of.  …   [continue reading]

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture [FIRST IMPRESSIONS]

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture
First Impressions

Concept
2/10

The mere gall of thinking you can use the medium of video games to tell your half-baked story is an insult not only to players but the entire industry.  Going into it with outright contempt for design and gameplay is a noxious mindset, and one I want well away from my game developers.  However, its setting is an intriguing one, and its interest in bringing extreme aesthetic quality at every turn is very much appreciated.

Gameplay
0/10

There is no gameplay to speak of.  The “game” is essentially a well decorated corridor which you walk sluggishly through.  …   [continue reading]