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.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

E3 Roundup!

It’s been several years since I looked forward to E3.  

The launch of the current console generation has been tough on everyone, and the budgets of AAA games confine the most creative and risky projects to the indie space. Not that there’s anything wrong with the indie space - quite the contrary - just that it doesn’t get covered in the biggest conferences and thus, my Twitter feed, and isn’t that what E3 is all about? 

Despite my low expectations, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by this year’s show. Although there are a lot of risk-averse sequels, they’re sequels to games I thought were pretty good, and since I am an arbiter of taste, this is obviously a sign that things are looking up. Here’s a list of the games that caught my eye, and what I have so say about them.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road, and doing the right thing

Normally I make an effort not to publish articles that do nothing more than echo the prevailing wisdom of the internet, but I'm going to make an exception for Mad Max: Fury Road because this magnificent film had as profound an effect on me as it did on everyone else, and I feel it would be somehow remiss not to declare this on Well-Rendered.

If only to make life easier for future biographers.

Before you read on, please be aware that this article contains all the spoilers.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Final Fantasy VII Playthrough: Part 20 - Diamond Weapon

"Diamond Weapon"? Has Final Fantasy VII gone gangsta?

Before we find out, a recap. Things just keep going from bad to worse. Not only is Sephiroth still on the loose, but Meteor is still hurtling through space towards the planet, and we've just blown up a rocket trying to stop it. Right now we're hanging out on the bridge of the Highwind ingesting about how terrible everything is. In fact, this is exactly how the last few instalments of the play through stated off, and I'm hoping this repetitiveness means you won't notice that I haven't updated it in 4 months.

They delay is partly to do with the fact that my PC started electrocuting me and I had to get my live-in IT guy to re-build it from scratch, but the main reason is that after the last episode of the playthrough I took a short new year's break, and when I returned to Final Fantasy VII I could not remember what I was supposed to do next and why. Modern games don't really have this issue; there's generally some kind of diary or hint system telling you where the next part of the quest is, but Final Fantasy VII is from the 90s, when shit was real.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Lara in my pocket: Tomb Raider on Android review

Tomb Raider on Android is 99p. If you are able to play the game at all it's because you've already spent at least £200 on a phone, so I would only recommend against buying it if you don't have time to play it. 

There are small niggles with the port itself, and I'll get to those, but overall I'm happy to say that this is very much Tomb Raider, just the way you remember it. Archaeologist-adventurer Lara Croft is contracted by the mysterious Jacqueline Natla to find the Scion, a mysterious artefact buried in the long-lost tomb of Qualopec, in Peru. One T-Rex, several wolves and some flirty banter with a cowboy later, and Lara learns that the Scion is just one piece of three, and she's going to have to travel to Greece, Egypt and the lost city of Atlantis to pocket the other bits and find out just what Natla's got planned.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

The Banner Saga, and living for the now

Here is a fact about me that will surprise absolutely no-one: I prefer winter to summer.

Even though it's only February, I am already hiding from the lengthening days in the chilly embrace of The Banner Saga, a tactical RPG set in a winter so bleak that the sun itself has frozen in place in the sky. Gameplay consists of making decisions for and fighting battles as a small caravan of humans and Varl, a race of horned giants who are the last of their kind because they can't reproduce (they're all male) and the god who made them is, like all other gods, dead.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Dual Wielding: Autobiography of a Fangirl

I bang on about Tomb Raider a lot because this is a video game blog, but Lara Croft actually shares the main plinth in my own personal Hall of Fandom with another 90s icon, Tori Amos.

This is why my autobiography is going to be entitled Dual Wielding, a reference to the fact that while most people are happy just using one gun or one piano at a time, the two women who will have inspired my meteoric rise to fame, fortune and international renown had mastered the art of using two at once.