Monday, August 28, 2017

What I'm Playing

An attempt to catch up on my ridiculous backlog:

1979 Revolution: Black Friday
The game starts off with an intimidating interrogation in a brutal jail cell. It does not get any lighter from there. I was totally engrossed. A scene where police began firing on unarmed protesters is treated with gravity and horror.

I chose a pacifist playthrough. Mostly I wanted to see how long my commitment to nonviolence would last. I ended up siding with my estranged cousin over my cop brother. I would play through it again to see how the other choices shake out, but the game was honestly exhausting and terrifying. I highly recommend it.

This game was a sleeper indie hit about four years ago. It gets described endlessly as a “Zelda-lite” or “Zelda-clone”. To me, that meant something like Twilight Princess, a Zelda game that seemed satisfied with mimicking the base mechanics of a Zelda game without much thought. Anodyne is not a thoughtless clone. It takes you to strange places with stranger dialogue. The puzzles are tight and well-introduced. It is short, and has generous checkpoints. Finally, it stuck with me in a way that Twilight Princess never did. So, even though the game is marketed as a “Zelda clone”, I think that framing is a disservice. It’s much more creative than that.

I will say the plot, which is supposedly taking place in the “subconscious of Young”, doesn’t seem too cohesive. The symbolism seems loose at best. I think that looseness is okay! The writing doesn’t seem too concerned with itself, and there are plenty of offbeat jokes. I don’t think it’s a “serious plot” game, as much as it is just a fun exploration of a bunch of different ideas.

Axiom Verge
Unlike Anodyne, Axiom Verge very clearly deserves to be called a “Metroid clone”. That’s fine. I wanted to play a Metroid game, probably because I forgot that the last time I finished a Metroid game was in, like...1999. As it turns out, I don’t have a ton of patience, I’m not great with directions or long-term memory, and while I have some tolerance for mandatory backtracking, it’s not unlimited.

I was doing fine in Axiom Verge until I got stuck. I spent an hour tracing, and retracing my steps. Finally I caved and Googled “stuck in Axiom Verge”, found a video called “Stuck in Axiom Verge?”, and that turned out to solve my exact problem. Then I got stuck again, found out I had to go back to the area I had already spent an hour in, and decided to give up for the night. I woke up the next morning, saw a YouTube-recommended speedrun video for Axiom Verge, and watched that instead of finishing the game myself.

My lack of discipline isn’t the game’s fault. It’s definitely a great speedrunning game. It’s just not my cup of tea.