Wednesday, 16 March 2016

A walk into the abyss: Everybody's Gone to the Rapture

Spoiler warning for Everybody's Gone to the Rapture!

I'm pretty nosy. When I go to people's houses, my attention is divided between the conversation and the mantlepiece as I scrutinise the family photos and wonder where the ornaments came from. Are those porcelain spaniels treasured reminders of an endearingly eccentric relative, or did my friends actually buy them?

Fortunately for everyone I know, my love of poking about has long been satisfied by gaming because developers are constantly refining the art of delivering narrative through environment. It's one of the most efficient means of interactive storytelling because it can be so easily integrated into gameplay. The player has to scour every room in a point-and-click anyway, so why not reward them with story as well as the key to the next level? Even in fighters, platformers and shooters, there's no reason why the environments should just be backdrops to the action when thoughtful design means they can convey character and backstory too.*

Sunday, 13 December 2015

The Creation of a World

At 8, I came close to failing an English exam because one of the questions was too exciting. I diligently began by reading through the entire paper, but was immediately derailed by the final assignment:

“Write about the creation of a world.”

Aslan, creator of worlds, from C. S. Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew. (Pauline Baynes)

Ideas exploded, ripping through my mind and spawning possibilities even as I tried to wrench my attention back to the other questions.

Friday, 4 September 2015

Lara Croft GO and Hitman GO review: More please.

I presume that mansion's got a hefty mortgage, because since she stopped selling Lucozade, Lara Croft has needed a part-time job. Previous extracurricular projects in the fallow years between major Tomb Raider releases include the isometric Guardian of Light and The Temple of Osiris, which offer a clever twist on the puzzles, isolation and exploration of Core's original games. While this gameplay can't carry an AAA franchise any more, it's still my own personal catnip, so you can imagine how thrilled I was when Lara Croft GO, a turn-based mobile puzzle game, was released last week.

Lara isn't the first of Square Enix' Eidos recruits to visit turn-based territory. That would be the Hitman series' Agent 47, who made his mobile debut in Hitman GO last year, by the same developer as Lara Croft GOSquare Enix Montreal. Lacking the patience for stealth gaming, I initially passed over Hitman GO, but I enjoyed Lara's outing so much that I though I'd give it a (sorry) go.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Willy Wonka and The Horror Factory

Spoiler warning: This post contains spoilers for It Follows, Body Snatchers and Under the Skin.

General warning: This post is about horror movies. It's not explicit, but does contains some adult/disturbing themes.

At two, I was terrified of Sesame Street. As the furry cast waggled across the screen, moving and speaking as if alive despite having a sightless, boggling gaze, I was flung into the Uncanny Valley. Those ostensibly friendly monsters instilled in me a profound fear that I would not re-encounter until my aborted viewing of Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory several years later.

Who thought this suitable for children?
On that occasion, my long-suffering parents had made the reasonable assumption that since I had loved Matilda and The Witches, I would also enjoy the film adaptation of Charlie. I was shaken by the fate of Augustus Gloop because of my deep horror of being submerged in or engulfed by any kind of viscous liquid (an unfortunate phobia for a 90s kid, given the decade's obsession with gunge), but I kept watching. I don’t remember the psychedelic journey that is often cited as the scariest moment of the film, but when it came to Violet Beauregarde, I lost it. Violet is a compulsive gum chewer who ignores Willy Wonka’s warnings about an untested stick of magical gum and is punished by being blown up into a giant blueberry.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Narrative in Her Story, The Stanley Parable, Gone Home and Papers, Please

I initially set up Well-Rendered to discuss narrative in games, so it seems remiss not to talk about a handful of recent favourites, which are to varying extents experiments in interactive storytelling. The reason I haven't so far is that they've all been deservedly successful and thus had a lot of critical attention already, so I can't bring anything new to the table. However, I've watched enough House to know that over-sharing could one day save my life, so I've written a little about each one just in case.

Please be aware that since these games explore narrative, they are best played with as little knowledge as possible, and this article contains spoilers. If you haven't played any or all of the games, they're all out now on Steam, generally for a lot less than you'd pay for a cinema ticket. Even for a 2-hour game, that's excellent when you consider the quality and originality of the stories within.