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Sparky Clarkson's blog

Identity Crysis

Identity Crysis

Crysis 2 is an excellent game and worth playing if you have ever enjoyed first-person shooters at all. On many levels, however, I thought the game couldn't really decide what it wanted to be about. Is it a game about making sound tactical choices in an operation against a superior force, or is it a (bad) story about squid attacking New York City with a bio-weapon?

A few thoughts on Portal 2

Portal 2 Screenshot

While I still have it fresh in my mind I want to put down my thoughts about the single-player campaign in Portal 2. I haven't played any of the co-op, primarily because of the mysterious, ongoing problem with the PSN. However, I completed the solo campaign, and while I agree with many of the criticisms Michael Barnes made in his review at No High Scores, I greatly enjoyed Portal 2. I don't think it's a 10/10 masterpiece, but it is a very good game.

Kirby's Epic Yarn and de Blob 2: Two (too?) easy games

Kirby's Epic Yarn Screenshot

The most difficult part of reviewing a game is reviewing the difficulty. A few games—Super Meat Boy, I Wanna be the Guy—can uncontroversially be called hard, but the essential question is actually whether they are too hard. Since that level of difficulty depends not only on the individual player's skills and experience, but also on his values, it can be difficult to state what goes over the line. It is even harder to accurately say whether a game is too easy, primarily because most reviewers are skilled and experienced gamers, many of them drawn to the hobby during its early days when challenge was practically all a game could offer in terms of fun.

PAX East 2011 Roundup

Hunted: The Demon's Forge Screenshot

I attended PAX East, checking out upcoming games and meeting great people. That last one was a bit more difficult thanks to the enormous size of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center (BCEC), but that size made panels much easier to get into and allowed for an expanded and much nicer exposition floor. In case you weren't there, here are some impressions.

Dragon Age II Demo-lition

Dragon Age II Screenshot

I think I should start with the reason I placed the pre-order in the first place, which is that I enjoyed Dragon Age: Origins a great deal. I didn't particularly care for the combat, which suffered from having continuous time and lousy AI. However, I thought the game had some interesting ideas hiding behind its surface pageantry of turgid Tolkienism, and the writing for some of the characters (Shale!) was really great. So, when I heard Dragon Age II was coming out I placed an order, and when I heard there was a demo, I downloaded it. Having thoroughly gone through the demo, however, I decided to cancel the pre-order.

999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, but I digress...

999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors Screenshot

It seems like most of the people who wrote reviews of 999 thought very highly of it. I'm not sure why that was; I found the game to be a fairly tedious exercise in the repetition of insufficiently interesting puzzles. 999 creates this problem for itself because of its structure. The enforced replays that are central to 999's design and fiction ask for more from the puzzles and dialogue than they are able to contribute as art or entertainment.

Disney Epic Mickey: Silence is leaden

Disney Epic Mickey Screenshot

A few days after the Christmas snowfall in Alabama, while we waited for the lasagna to finish cooking, we popped a copy of Disney Epic Mickey into the Wii and I played a bit of it. I got past the first, easy battle and entered the hallway, where a cutscene began. My mother, who mostly plays Snood, wanted to know why Mickey wasn't speaking. "He's always talked," she noted, and for almost anyone alive that's true. Mickey started talking in 1929, just a year after his famous appearance in the sound-synched Steamboat Willie. Sound has been a famous part of Mickey's history, so it's alienating, especially to non-gamers, to run into an essentially silent version of the Mouse in Epic Mickey.

Sparky's Year in Games 2010

Metro 2033 Screenshot

Well, it has reached the time of year when we harvest the crop of retrospectives, the best-of and worst-of lists that one can accuse of gratuitous iconoclasm, corporate servitude, or trolling as suits your fancy. I continue my habit of not naming a "Game of the Year", nor even a "Game (that I played) of the Year" because it's a hollow designation, and (rightfully) nobody cares. That said, since it is customary to roll out some kind of year-end wrap-up, here is one.

Cinematic Action games: a brief critical assessment

Prince of Persia Screenshot

To categorize cinematic action games as intrinsically shallow or lacking in value would be the worst sort of genre-as-pejorative thinking. Their approach to game storytelling has produced many strengths, but one central characteristic of the genre is also a critical weakness. The great artistic limitations of cinematic action games come from their disinterest in the player as a creative force.

Values and characteristics of the Cinematic Action genre

Shadow of the Colossus Screenshot

Uncharted represents not a new kind of game unto itself but an exemplary actualization of certain values in game design. Here I intend to put a name to those values and show how they relate to the characteristics of games in this group, which I think of as "Cinematic Action" games.

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