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.  …   [continue reading]

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 It was also an unfair eye-roll at it and all games of its kind that seem to rely on outdated mechanics and graphics because of budget.…   [continue reading]

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.  …   [continue reading]

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]