eibborn: (painted any colour that he wants)
eibborn ([personal profile] eibborn) wrote2011-01-15 06:00 am
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Ode to the Bridge Builder

It is kind of frustrating that the only think I'm really passionate about these days is video games and what makes them special. It makes me wonder if I should have gone into journalism so that I could have even fewer interesting job prospects than I already do but be able to write about this thing that fascinates me in a respectable way. Obviously I am unfit to take part in the actual process of creating such games, but by god's balls do I love to interpret them.


...Someone on [community profile] rpanoncomm asked for recommendations for Mac-compatible games for Steam. I offered some. ...Look, it's 0600 here and I haven't slept; you'll have to forgive me my incoherence. In some ways, I am dreadfully unhealthy.


Here is my friend recommendation for Lugaru:

Lugaru is pretty dang excellent. It is not my normal style of game and its graphics, physics, and story are all what you'd expect from a small, independent studio, (simple but functional) but oh man did I enjoy it. The combat is unlike anything else. It really conveys the sense of danger from battle, and the controls are very immersive. That alone is enough to make the game worth buying. There are like a million videos on Youtube of people being badass and kicking butt, but I spent most of my time yelling and mashing buttons in the hopes of not getting murdered before I could murder the prospective murderer. Or something.

I am really terrible at making things sound appealing since I feel like I ought to warn people about their downsides first and foremost, but basically you play as a JUDO RABBIT who JUDO FIGHTS other rabbits and stuff. And then they throw weapons in there, too, which are pretty awesome. Combat is based mostly on timing. Despite its unrefined graphics, this is easily worth the 10USD they ask for.

And then there is Recettear. "Capitalism ho!" Basically the point is to run a successful fantasy adventure business. It sounds like a glorified Lemonade Stand (if you remember that game from when you were a kid), but you've got to barter with your customers and learn how high they'll pay, and you enter dungeons with adventurers to restock your wares (unless you want to just buy them from a supplier). I haven't beaten this game yet, unfortunately. It has some pretty high expectations of you. If you ever fail a dungeon, I'd recommend just starting over from your last save because you'll be paying for it for the rest of the game. This is not a forgiving world. It is pretty expensive compared to my usual games, 20USD. I've already spent over ten hours on it without finishing it as I had to start over once, so that's pretty good value anyway.

World of Goo is a puzzle game wherein you need to construct towers and the like using balls of Goo. It has a healthy dish of social commentary regarding consumerism and just how terrifying monolithic establishments like, say, Google really are woven into the story along the way (as well as an unfortunate odour of sexism). But for the most part, it's just puzzle solving. How can you build a bridge that won't slump too much in the middle to reach this point without using any more goo than absolutely necessary. This game makes good use of solitude in my opinion, the only characters you interact with being the gooballs themselves (they have eyes), bugs, The Friendly Sign Painter (who you never meet face-to-face), and [spoiler]. Definitely worth the 10USD, although keep in mind that you can get it for the Wii as well if you have that.

Another game, this one notorious for its use of solitude to play with the player's emotions, is Portal. This game is even better known than World Of Goo so I won't go into depth, but the idea is that you're a test subject for the Aperture Science Enrichment Institute being put through a series of tests with the goal of finding out the capabilities of a newly designed item, the portal gun. It's a puzzle game bred with a first person shooter, interestingly enough, one of the most innovative mainstream games of the decade. 14USD, although I would bet good money that it will go on sale withing the next several months considering its sequel is due to be released very soon.

VVVVVV is another innovative game. It is entirely based on the ideas of up and down, I suppose. You essentially navigate 8-bit corridors littered with improbable obstacles with only one button other than the arrow keys at your disposal, a button that reverses your personal gravity. Death is absurdly easy to come by in this game, but it doesn't matter in the least as there are checkpoints every few feet. You can't really go wrong for 5USD.

World of Goo and Lugaru were both available from the Humble Indie Bundle (http://www.humblebundle.com/) in both their first and second promotions. There's a pretty reasonable chance that you can hold off on buying them for now and get them for around ten dollars whenever a new Humble Bundle is released, but there's no saying when that will be. I'm not absolutely in love with any of the other games in the bundles (I haven't played most of them to any great extent yet), but it's worth it even if you want just one or two of them.

[And then in an addendum:]
Okay, I can't shut up apparently but. Each of these games has a very functional soundtrack, but the best by far is World of Goo's, in which the music itself--melodic music, which is what makes this exceptional--is fully incorporated into the levels. It is usual for a game to appear in which I consider the music an irremovable aspect of it, but a person's experience of World of Goo would be significantly altered if it was played while muted.

Both the game and the soundtrack are strong alone (and you can get that soundtrack for free here: http://kylegabler.com/WorldOfGooSoundtrack/) but together they are amazing.

So there's that. This probably isn't half as useful as I hope it is, but we shall see once I have slept for a few hours.