I’d imagine that deciding on a name for a video game would be an arduous task; the single most important image element of a product that has taken years of devotion; the first impression; the ultimate reduction of the entire experience into a single phrase. I don’t know how developer Coffee Powered Machine were inspired, but their upcoming title Okhlos has nailed the game-naming game. Okhlos is a Greek word. It’s English translation is “mob”. That one word is introduction enough for the self-described “angry Greek mob simulator” Okhlos, in all of its ridiculousness, chaos and charm.
In a world of greyscale, a child stands alone. Their silent surroundings hint at the terrors that lurk both in the shadows and right in front of their eyes, but despite their fear, they are unshaken. A hint of red in their otherwise unremarkable outfit breaks through the black and white and shows the viewer that their story is one of importance. No, I’m not talking about Schindler’s List. No, I’m not describing Limbo, another game that would easily fit those first two sentences of the description. Instead, this is the beginning of Limbo developer Playdead’s second black and white dystopian platformer–but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s just a repeat of their last success story. Inside has its own story to tell, and boy is it one heck of a story.
I first played Mirror’s Edge in 2009. My friend bought it for PC when it came out and I borrowed it off him a couple of weeks later–this was before the age of Steamworks or Origin activation. Since then, I must’ve played it at least twice a year. It was a short, refreshing campaign that, despite having its fair share of flaws, stood out as an entirely unique experience compared to what else was being released from AAA studios around that time. I challenged myself to complete what I’ve since learnt is known as the “Test of Faith” achievement, in which you finish the game without shooting at an enemy (it’s the way it was meant to be played). It’s one of the very few non-Nintendo games I’d place in a hypothetical top 10 games list. I fell in love with Mirror’s Edge in 2009. For seven years, Mirror’s Edge has helped me through countless tough times and has held a special place in my heart since I first ran across the rooftops of Glass. And, for seven years, I’ve been waiting patiently to see where the franchise would go next. I honestly thought I’d never see the day. But here we are, and Mirror’s Edge has been rebooted–no, it’s not a sequel–as an open-world freerunner, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst.
Femininity isn’t something mainstream games tend to embrace. Masculine, ‘tough girl’ tropes? Sure, Tomb Raider is kind of a thing. Sexualized femininity? Hoo boy, do videogames have that covered. But it’s almost never that we have a game celebrating femininity for its own sake – as a virtue or as a strength. However, one game series that has done a consistently excellent job bucking this trend is Gust’s Atelier games. Atelier Sophie: Alchemist of the Mysterious Book marks the 17th entry in the long running series, and is the series’ first venture on to the Playstation 4 console. But after so many installations in this JRPG franchise, has Atelier Sophie still got the magic touch?
Death has always been used a core mechanic in gaming, typically as punishment and a definitive indication that yes, you sure did miss that jump. This is not always a Game Over scenario; upon death in platformers like Super Meat Boy, you quickly spawn back in and try again. The entire survival horror genre, and the rise of the Dark Souls series, are based on nigh-inevitable death. A small group of Canadian indie devs have taken another approach, and used the deaths of a battalion’s worth of adorable, misled and forsaken knights as the sole tool in the toolbox for players to solve their puzzler, Life Goes On: Done to Death. This irreverent release is light on story and far from morbid, and proposes some interesting puzzling situations. It’s somehow both simple, and not.
From a tumbling ball of cotton yarn a hero is birthed. Yarny is the aptly and unimaginatively named embodiment of Unravel’s central themes; bravery, persistence, and a desire to connect. While these aren’t very directly communicated through the game, they do lend some weight and meaning to this puzzler, in case that’s what you’re after. Traverse beautiful landscapes, listen to stunning music and piece together a story of memories and the passing of time. And lots of drowning.
Designing any interactive media that pits the player as an ingenious and brilliant detective while retaining a sense of free will would be, I’d expect, rather difficult. To suggest the player should commandeer this genius agent of deduction and carry out an investigation in any credible way without holding their hand would be to assume they already possess genius skills of deduction. To take that hand and lead them through a string of scenes to marvel at this character’s glorious intellect would be to create a lifeless work ill suited to the medium. Agatha Christie – The ABC Murders (2016) does very well to include the player on a linear tale of murder by designing a loophole of a game mechanic; the flesh of the game is not in possessing Agatha Christie’s famous detective Hercule Poirot, but in directing his subconscious in pursuit of a serial killer.