“Never Alone” Never Quite Achieves Its Potential

Never Alone held exciting prospects for me, partially because I’ve enjoyed indigenous folklore as long as I can remember.

When I was a kid back in the seventies, the small, country school I attended had a library tucked along one wall of its gymnasium/cafeteria. Amidst the usual assortment of grade-school texts, the library also offered stories on microfilm. Each film was accompanied by an audio tape that provided narration, music and sound effects.

African folktales were my favorite. I recall one in particular that depicted masked demons dancing out of a forest at night. Now, our school was bordered by a forest. This scene terrified me. I’m pretty sure it gave me nightmares.

In short, I loved it. I watched it over and over again.

So when I heard about Never Alone, it brought back fond memories of fantastic stories full of strange creatures and unlikely heroes. Sadly, while the game is visually appealing, Never Alone never quite lives up to its promise or potential.

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Rapture Revisited Part 10: A Dark and Brutal Symphony

Best. Ending. Ever.

Okay, I’m biased. Maybe it wasn’t quite the best ending, but it was easily one of my favorites. BioShock advanced the state of the art of game design, prompting deep reflection on the notions of agency and control.

Not everyone sees it that way. Opinions vary widely amongst players, some of whom were disappointed with BioShock’s narrative twist and what it said about their choices. In fact, to call them “choices” at all is to step into the discussion on an openly contested point: Many players and critics alike hold that any perceived sense of control in the game is an illusion.

BioShock has its flaws, but a lack of agency isn’t one of them. The control it offers is very real and reasonable, though individual presumptions about games—and narrative games in particular—might make it seem otherwise.

To see how this might be true, we need to put agency and control in proper perspective. It would help if we could move away from comparisons between games and films or novels and instead consider a more apt basis for comparison: orchestral music.

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Video

Let’s Play “The Old Tree”

Alright, my writer’s block is kicking up again, the last post in my “Rapture Revisited” series is on its umpteenth rewrite, and I’m worn out. I’m really hoping to have it posted by Saturday, but in the meantime, please enjoy my first “Let’s Play” video:

This cute, quick little point-‘n-click was recommended by @IndieGamerChick on twitter. You can read her take on it here.

Did I mention that The Old Tree is free to play? Download it from Steam and try it for yourself!

See you back here Saturday!

Rapture Revisited Part 9: The Shame of “Easy Mode”

I’m going to share my secret shame. One of them, anyway.

A while back I posted on my Tumblr complaining that BioShock seemed much more difficult than the first time I played it. Ever since then—and please don’t think less of me for saying this, but…

I lowered the difficulty. I’ve been playing on “easy” mode.

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Little Sisters Orphanage
Little Sisters in Tenenbaum's Care

Rapture Revisited Part 7: Out of the Uncanny Valley

My tour of Olympus Heights provoked the strongest emotions of any chapter thus far. It began with a welcome and cathartic sigh of relief when I awoke to find all the little sisters I’d saved safe and relatively sound in Dr. Tenenbaum’s care. The reunion provided a welcome counterpoint to the many levels of tension, panic, and unflinching violence.

So I wonder: What does the orphanage looks like for players who harvested the girls?

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Hephaestus
An Evening With Sander Cohen

Rapture Revisited Part 5: An Evening With Sander Cohen

I really enjoyed this level. Chalk it up to great writing and character development.

This level, and Sander Cohen in particular, is one of the main reasons I decided to re-play the original BioShock. Mr. Cohen appears in Burial at Sea Episode 1, and I’ve heard he plays a rather important role in Episode 2.

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Farmer's Market
Rapture Tea Gardens