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Nobody at the tower

BioShock Infinite Screenshot

One of the things I found most striking about BioShock Infinite is how sloppy it was. The ending, as I already discussed, is a self-contradicting mess held together only by sharply-timed revelations and plonky piano music. The quantum morass of its final moments is only one of the game's problems, though.

Only one of Infinite Endings

BioShock Infinite Screenshot

One of the problems with stories that use the concept of multiple universes is that the word "multiple" doesn't even begin to describe the scale of existence. Consider, for instance, the universes in which I just reached through the internet and handed you a cookie (hope you like pistachio sandies!). Now, in the context of known physical laws, this is an extremely unlikely event, so much so that if you were to try to write out the probability by putting down a 1 and writing zeroes in front of it, you could go the whole lifetime of our universe without ever reaching the decimal point.

Sparky's Games of PAX East 2013

Guacamelee Screenshot

I typically go to a lot of panels at Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) East, but this year relatively few of the offerings interested me (and some of the interesting ones were on simultaneously). So, I spent a lot of time on the show floor. The only major publisher I really visited was Ubisoft, where I learned that Might & Magic X will be coming this year and has a huge, wasteful UI. I spent most of the rest of my time in the Indie Megabooth and environs, both because this is a more efficient use of time and you're more likely to actually see the games and talk to somebody interesting there.

His name is Buck…

Far Cry 3 Screenshot

Buck is a peculiar hitman in Far Cry 3. Apparently employed by the game's big bad, Hoyt, Buck has an interest in men, and in ancient Chinese artifacts. As it happens, he presently "owns" one of protagonist Jason Brody's male friends, and will exchange him if Jason retrieves a ceremonial knife originating from the treasure ships of Zheng He. Since Jason needs the knife for another purpose, it is obvious from the beginning of the adventure that he will come away from Buck's tasks with both friend and knife. That's how these games work, and Far Cry 3 is relentlessly conventional in that respect.

The flaw in the design

Far Cry 3 Screenshot

Several weeks ago Seb Wuepper posted a critique of Far Cry 3's design at Gameranx that I did not find compelling. Wuepper's argument reads less like criticism of Far Cry 3's design per se than a complaint about the fact that this game is not Far Cry 2. I am sympathetic to his point because I also prefer Far Cry 2. However, I don't feel that not being some game I like more is a fundamental argument against design quality.

2012: The Year of the Games

Journey (PSN) Screenshot

2012 has been an amazing year for games. I had meant to put together a post extolling the virtues of the top candidates for game of the year, but the list kept getting longer and longer, with more and more games that would have been obvious choices for a top-five list in any other year. The task was clearly beyond me. So, I enlisted the talents of Michael Abbott, Brandon Bales, Mattie Brice, Kate Cox, Denis Farr, Brad Gallaway, Brendan Keogh, Justin Keverne, Cameron Kunzelman, Kris Ligman, Eric Swain, and Dan Weissenberger. With my superteam thus assembled, let's look at some of the year's super games.

Your choices don't matter

The Walking Dead: Episode Five—No Time Left Screenshot

World War Z and The Walking Dead take a similar conceptual approach to the zombie apocalypse, but have fundamentally different views on human society. The basically optimistic World War Z suggests that social problems are a surface malady that the zombie apocalypse would strip away, letting the moral strength of mankind ultimately show through triumphantly. The Walking Dead, on the other hand, sees social order and altruism as artifice, a contortion of natural human behavior that falls apart once the zombies consume the social mass that held it in place.

Mad milk

The Walking Dead: Episode Two—Starved for Help Screenshot

Like many people who played Telltale's episodic game, The Walking Dead, I had read and enjoyed many of the comics beforehand. I appreciated that they took the subject seriously. I don't mean that in the sense of a John Romero film, where the zombies themselves are rather silly but serve to illustrate serious social questions. Rather, like World War Z, The Walking Dead decides on a set of rules about zombies and a premise about people, and unflinchingly follows those principles into the abyss.

Don't say a word

Mass Effect 3 Screenshot

In the wake of the success of Obsidian's Project Eternity Kickstarter, supporters are eagerly watching the stretch goals to see what promised goodies will be put into the game. Meanwhile, I am hoping to see one thing left out: voice acting. Done correctly, voice acting can significantly improve a Japanese RPG. However, recording voices for characters diminishes a Western RPG, regardless of the reading's quality. For this reason, I feel that Western RPGs should avoid having voiced dialogue.

The missing target

The Last Story Screenshot

Spoiler Alert: This article contains spoilers for The Last Story.

The best-regarded cinematic games of today owe much of their structure to the currently-derided Japanese role-playing game. For all that players heaped scorn on the running-in-tubes gameplay of Final Fantasy XIII, it shared with the Uncharted games the feature that the player's task was to kill his way from one cutscene to the next.

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