28
May
2014

The Great Object Hunt

Posted by Cha

In which I chart some of my experiences with hidden object games, starting as a genre newcomer and meandering through several attempts to understand what I’ve been doing here. This post has been in development for years, and changed direction several times. It’s become a journey from my first experiences with the genre, until now when I find myself moving away from it.

[Post contains some spoilers, particularly for A Vampire Romance, Twisted Lands: Shadow Town and Deadly Association]

There are some defensibly good hidden object games, like Tiny Bang Story or the Drawn series, but I'd much prefer to write about trash. Most of these games feel churned out, with little depth or originality. Disposability itself can be part of the attraction, but in a conflicted way. I waver on whether these games are playfully cheesy or just cringeworthy.

[Here be spoilers, but mostly for Demon’s Souls and the original Dark Souls. Dark Souls II gets a lighter discussion.]

The warriors who entered Boletaria’s fog couldn’t find their way back out, and you’re just one of many to end up trapped there. It’s fitting to bump up against the edges of your cage. Demon’s Souls is self-contained and claustrophobic, with no true escape regardless of the choices you make or how far you progress. You can defeat the world’s demons. You can try to help people, or take on assassination contracts and start picking them off one by one. You might eventually gain an amazing amount of power but you’ll still be bound to the Nexus, constantly returning to this hub in an unbreakable cycle. It’s a sanctuary for many, creating rest and safety at the eye of the storm, but also a prison.

07
Feb
2014

Writers Block and Family Block

Posted by Cha

[Includes spoilers for The Novelist]

The Novelist is about a family. It’s also about a ghost, which is our role in the story. The ghost is a device for exploring people’s thoughts, memories and desires, and deciding who gets what they want. The ghost whispers in the father’s ear and tells him what to do.

Why does the ghost exist? Since the father’s choices are the only ones given any importance why don’t we just play as him? Possibly to add challenge, or fit a restrictive definition of “game”. There’s already plenty of emotional challenge in compromising between family members, but the ghost adds a dash of more traditional stealth-based gamey-ness. On the higher difficulty setting it’s possible for family members to spot the ghost, and spooking them reduces your options slightly. So, a tiny element of risk without going as far as a hard fail state.

03
Feb
2014

The Cowardly Journey

Posted by Cha

I moved lightly over the sand, leaving trails behind me. I had to admit, it felt pretty good skimming along. But there was so much ground to cover, and limited energy to explore it with. The pace soon slowed, energy depleted, and I imagined myself grumpily kicking sand around with my foot. Stupid sand.

I loved flower, but something made me far more dubious about thatgamecompany's Journey. I went in feeling flippant and impatient. I dared it to try and move me, not expecting to find anything particularly meaningful. I fought against whatever emotion the game was trying to achieve (not always effectively, I'll admit).

31
Jan
2014

How Many Reflections?

Posted by Cha

MirrorMoon EP made me sad. Maybe that’s okay since it’s a lonely game and sadness isn’t too far away from loneliness, but it also made me a little bit angry.

Now, I love this game. It’s slow-paced exploration with light puzzle solving and stunning low-poly planets in matte shades that shift with the light. I appreciate traveling via tape deck, like there’s a universe in everything. Also that even though music seems important sounds are subtle and faintly eerie. The stars feel vast and empty, and at first it’s difficult to imagine how to navigate with purpose.

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