Survival is a common theme in video games. Struggling to exist in a hostile environment, often in face of insurmountable odds, is a natural setting for challenging the players skills. Survival is a potent counterpoint to the usual themes of domination and triumph. It is about shifting your perspective from “How am I going to kill these guys?” to “How am I going to make through this alive?”. Survival also has a natural companion, horror. Fear of death is a very primal instinct, and tapping into feelings of dread is what horror entertainment is built upon. Survival horror is a genre upon itself, defined and re-defined over the years by such great games as Resident Evil, Silent Hill and Amnesia: The Dark Descent.
Roguelikes, a genre defined by the steep penalties imposed by character death, have always embraced survival as a core element of their design. If dying means starting all over again, not dying tends to become a central goal. Combining survival with horror, on the other hand, is a rarely seen mix in roguelikes. Teleglitch, a game developed by the Estonian company Test3 Projects, is a moody top-down shooter that manages to blend the deliberate pacing and foreboding atmosphere of survival horror games with the unpredictability and replayability of procedural generation. It’s a dark and difficult plunge into the unknown, a plunge you should definitely take. Continue reading
No matter how much we try to deny it, violence is great entertainment. We’ve always known this, from gladiator fights to action movies. Blood is the ultimate crowdpleaser. Of course, participating is usually something most people won’t do, seeing how the threat of bodily harm to oneself is a rather powerful deterrent. Most people prefer to remain spectators, a winning formula that satisfies both our lust for adrenaline and the wish not to deal with the repercussions of violence.
Video games can take this one step further. Virtual worlds allow us to partake in killing, maiming and dismembering unfeeling computer automatons with no fear of the consequences. It is no wonder most popular video games feature violence in one way or another. Most games try to give justification to the carnage, or take refuge in audacity by making it too stylized and unrealistic to take seriously. Some even try to turn the tables and take a moral stand on the issue, as is the case with Spec Ops: The Line. Hotline Miami does none of those things. It simply hands you a kitchen knife, locks you into a room filled with potential victims and opens up the door fifteen minutes later with a knowing smirk on its face.
So, Flappy Bird. So much has been already written on the saga of this simple mobile game. The sudden popularity, money and fame, the dramatic disappearance and subsequent reappearance. A mere footnote on the great tome of gaming history, but an interesting footnote nevertheless. You only really need one good mechanic to make a good game, and this is the point Flappy Bird drove home. That endless second leap of a double jump has something deeply satisfying, yet surprisingly intense about it. Countless of imitators have risen in Flappy Bird’s wake, remaking and remixing the concept even further. Notable examples in my mind are FlapMMO and Delirious Bird, both of which introduce interesting new elements to the recipe. However, one Flappy Bird clone caught my attention and refused to leave my psyche for days. I present to you, Maverick Bird. Leave it to the VVVVVV and Super Hexagon mastermind Terry Cavanagh to take the challenging yet ultimately benign original and make it into a psychedelic neon nightmare. Continue reading
I’m screwed. Time seems to crawl by as I try to cram more bullets into my revolver, huddling behind an outhouse. The bastards have me cornered. I can hear their sneers just around the corner. My comrade is lying in front of me, his brown duster turning red as blood flows from the holes in his back. A fleeting moment passes. The first of the sonuvabitches shows his ugly mug, swiveling to my view. I act on instinct, pulling my knife and throwing it in his face with one smooth move. I’m on my feet before his body hits the ground. If I’m going to die, I might as well die with my boots on. The Colt in my hand roars as I open fire on the second ranger. I only had time to load two bullets, and both of them find their way to the black-clad lawman’s heart. The third bastard is upon me. He swings his axe, but I manage to kick him away, scrambling for my second knife. I launch after him, determined to plant the blade between his eyes.
Turns out there is a fourth one. I catch him from the corner of my eye, but I’m too slow. Sawn-off shotgun blasts its deadly payload right into my side. I hit the ground hard. I’m done for. Just as I slip into unconsciousness, I hear a gruff voice yelling from the distance. “PASS THE WHISKEY!”
Welcome to Fistful of Frags. Continue reading
It’s a situation we’ve all found ourselves in some point of our lives. The space-truck you’ve grabbed a cheap ride on crashes on an alien planet. As the only survivor crawling out of the escape pod, you now need to shoot, claw and blow up your way back to the wreckage of the truck in hope of escaping this surprisingly hostile planet. Some call it an adventure, but I call it a playthrough of the best indie roguelike since Binding of Isaac, Risk of Rain. Continue reading
Now that I’ve written about Sauerbraten, it’s time to discuss the originator of the rocket jumping genre, Quake. Quake 3 might be the gold standard of arena shooters, but the original Quake does still prove why it became so phenomenal in the first place. Hundreds of thousands of hours have been spent in its brown corridors, brown caricatures of space marines blasting each other to brownish red giblets with brown implements of death. So, how does this granddaddy of 3D-rendered slaughter hold up in the modern times?
LAN-parties have a very special place in my heart, right next to pancakes and maple syrup; the so-called finer things in life. Disregarding the absurdity of grown men dragging black and grey 30-pound computer boxes with external monitors around in this age of mobile devices, there is something extraordinary about LAN-parties. It’s that peculiar sensation of sitting in the middle of a stuffy small room filled with people and machines, while you are all together somehow still having fun playing video games. It’s that childlike joy of being exited about playing PC games for a whole weekend, because it is something people in their mid-20’s don’t really have time to do anymore. LAN-parties are… special occasions. What used to fulfill a technical need now fulfills a social need.
To document this hobby of mine, I decided that I would write a bit about my very favorite games to play on LAN, starting with the open source shooter Sauerbraten. Continue reading