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!”
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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
As anyone who has ever fished around in the murky depths of mobile app stores in search for gaming knows, finding something worthwhile to play on your smartphone is surprisingly difficult. Most mobile games are absolute garbage, abusive attention traps designed around nickle-and-diming your money away with absurdly offensive microtransaction-based features. It is ironic then that the game I’m a about to talk about is both absurd and abusive, but at least it’s not trying to get to your wallet. No, Super Hexagon is after your sanity. It’s a game that bores its cruel barbed drill right into your cognitive center, forcing you to submit yourself to it’s peculiar brand of hypnotic masochism. Playing Super Hexagon is probably bad for you, but it’s also one of the best gaming experiences I’ve encountered on my Android phone. Keep reading. Continue reading
Like so many other good things, Blood Bowl is a product of time and effort. The first edition of this bizarre fantasy sports-themed boardgame was released way back in 1986 by Games Workshop, the creators of miniature games. Ever since, this curious spinoff from the company’s main Warhammer Fantasy franchise has seen over 25 years of further game development and several different editions of it’s core ruleset, currently running at 6th edition. The game has transcended its cardboard beginnings and is played with both detailed miniature models on tabletop, as well as online with the help of several different client software. The most popular online league fumbbl.com has 66171 active accounts with up to 600 matches played daily. But what is this silly boardgame that has captured the interest of gamers for nearly three decades? Why should you be interested in it? Keep reading to find out. Continue reading