CounterSpy is a fun little gem of a game from indie studio Dynamighty that draws on a rich stylistic history of espionage in 1960’s cinema. It starts with excellent graphic design inspired by the likes of Saul Bass, then layers on a cool, “spy jazz” soundtrack that would have made Mancini proud. Add some fun, light gameplay combining side-scrolling action with simple stealth mechanics and you have an experience that will have you longing for the simpler times of cold war espionage.
I finally sat down last week to start playing Burial at Sea Episode 2. Again. I’m starting on round three, now that I think of it, but this is it! Third time’s a charm! Definitely going to finish this time!
The reasons for my many restarts aren’t important. What matters to me is the perspective I’ve gained through this exercise in repetition. Developing a critical, objective eye is difficult. When you love a genre or series, you run this risk of letting enthusiasm blind you to its faults. Re-reading, re-watching, and re-playing all help to temper that enthusiasm with cool, dispassionate objectivity.
Playing through the opening to Episode 2 multiple times has done just that. My first time through I was too starry-eyed to see anything clearly. It was fun, but it was like being a fat little boy in a candy shop (and, for the record, I’ve actually been a fat little boy in a candy shop, so I speak from experience). I was thoroughly “engaged”, but it wasn’t, shall we say, “healthy”.
Burial at Sea Episode 2 is an enjoyable game, but so far, it’s not without significant flaws, one of which may be Elizabeth herself.
Take deep breath. Here we go. It’s the BioShock home stretch. Time to finally play BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea Episode Two.
After all my preparation and build-up over the past months, what do I want out of this game?
In a word: Closure.
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.
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.
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:
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!
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.