…hrm, maybe I’ll play some Earthworm Jim today…
Jim as Blind Sally, Earthworm Jim 2, SNES/Genesis
What is Jim’s second favorite disguise, after ‘Blind Sally’?
A Steve’s Shop Vacuum
B Nematode Nick
C The Prime Minister of England
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What is there to say? I hope there’s somewhere I can get these while I’m at school.
Adventure Time Toys Around The Corner
A sneak peek of a few of the first round of Adventure Time toys from Jazwares. Expect to see them in Toys “R” Us by the end of September (at the latest). The 10-inch Finn - with a face that changes expressions and a backpack you can actually store stuff in - is worth the price of admission alone.
Hell yeah, one of my favorite games of all time! As the back of the box says, he’s one “oppowerful opposum!”
Sparkster of Rocket Knight Adventures, Genesis
The bravest knights never play possum! … Even when they ARE possums.
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I *heart* Paul Robertson.
Meowth, Nyan Cat, Bubsy, Jiji, Rosie, and over a dozen other kittens celebrated in this pixelart by Paul Robertson (click or a larger version). Can you name the other cats?
Buy: Pokemon Black/White games and DSi bundles
Find: Nintendo DS/3DS release dates, discounts, & more
See also: More Pokemon, Paul Robertson posts
[Via Paul Robertson]
So, we’re about two weeks out from one of the more important games to come out this year— not important in that it will revolutionize video games (because it won’t) but because it will represent the first half of a victory for small and unique import games. Atlus’s much wanted, much imported Catherine will hit game store shelves fairly soon, and as such they have thrown a short demo up for players to determine whether or not they want to see more of the titular Catherine. Touted as the first hour of gameplay (which is actually much shorter if you’re adept at puzzle games), the demo doesn’t necessarily give the strongest feeling of what to expect from the whole game, but offers more of a window into what the full experience may have to offer.
I downloaded the demo the second the Playstation Store updated yesterday evening, as I was more interested in being able to understand the game, seeing as I had downloaded the Japanese demo months earlier (if you have a PS3 and don’t have a, ahem, fake Japanese PSN account, you’re missing an amazing part of the PS3 experience). The very first thing I noticed was the new English voice track. Previous Atlus outings have proven that they are quite good at voicing and localizing games without making the finished product grating or annoying. Basically think of them as the video game equivalent of Disney’s handling of Studio Ghibli films— fair blend of celebrities and voice actors, consistent localization, and sincere performances. The same can be said for the Catherine demo. The voices are on par with the better anime dubs of the day, and choosing Atlus alumni to voice major characters like the protagonist Vincent pays off. This could be a voice acting success up there with the likes of the original Metal Gear Solid.
The second thing I noticed right away was that the gameplay in the demo alone was already significantly easier. The game consists of using Vincent to push and pull blocks in order to make a staircase to reach the top of a nightmarish tower. I remember the first time I played the Japanese demo, I felt very stressed and very rushed. The stressful nature of the gameplay made it feel like a nightmare, giving the moments outside of the nightmare a very relaxed and safe feeling. I didn’t get that here in the English demo, and that’s not because I knew what I was doing. I think overall, there’s a much more lenient time limit on the player, making the couple of puzzles feel like a cringe-worthy puzzle section instead of a nerve-wracking mind bender. Hopefully the higher difficulties in the final product will retain the rushing and stressful nature of the gameplay. While a higher difficulty will certainly alienate some players (many are already talking of how the demo has them scratching their heads), the atmosphere of the dream sequences will go a long way in making this a memorable experience.
Finally, we also get a glimpse of some of the real-world gameplay we can expect to see in the game. Basically it means watching a brief animated scene and then transitioning to beautiful in-engine dialogues between characters. It goes without saying that this is a beautiful game in full HD, and only serves to make me lament the disappointing absence of more cel-shaded games in this future of extremely crisp, colorful, and clear graphics. In these real world scenes, you’ll also need to make some choices for Vincent in how he interacts with other people and responds to messages on his cellphone. An element I clearly missed out on in the Japanese demo, you can choose which lines for Vincent to respond with, which range from defiant and confident to passive and submissive. While I definitely had to think about some of the responses to the text you receive in the demo (which has such a long term effect, it goes unnoticed in the preview offered), it’s good to see that they’re making you really think about how you play Vincent instead of purely black and white choices. I think some players will definitely be surprised how their actions will define how the game perceives you.
The demo concludes with another standard block puzzle (which still felt much easier than the one in the Japanese demo), but the game definitely gets you pumped up to see what happens next, especially with the trailer that follows. However, I certainly think this demo won’t exactly tell you whether or not you will enjoy the final product, but whether you have the tolerance for the game, which presents itself more as an experience rather than a titillating thrill ride. Many people are already writing it off as a generic puzzle game or critiquing for being too cutscene heavy. Be warned, this game is definitely made for a somewhat specific audience. General curiosity may get you in the door, but it will take a level of commitment to immersion to fully enjoy the game. I personally love what Atlus presents here, and I can’t wait to get my hands on this game. It feels like the sorta game I’d want to return to at least once a year to see if anything changes for me. If you’re reading this and haven’t downloaded the demo yet, please go ahead and give it a try, see what you think. I recommend keeping an open mind about it and don’t get too critical about it until the whole thing is over. The game will definitely be a hard sale for most people, but if it goes through, it will certainly be worth the investment.
One of the sleeper hits of 2010 was the student indie-game Octodad. In the game, you play the role of a father who must go about his daily fatherly routines— all while hiding the fact that he is a six-foot tall octopus in a suit from his family. What ensued was nothing short of hilarity, with tasks as simple of clearing a counter becoming an incredible endeavor for an octopus and un-dadly acts alerting the family to the goings-on of their mysterious patriarch. I spent about half an hour with the game only to find that it was one of the funniest games I’d ever played, and this wasn’t due to the wacky writing, but rather because of the gameplay itself. The game is created to control incredibly poorly to give you that true feeling of being an octopus. And as hilarious as nearly impossible walking controls made cleaning the kitchen a gut-busting mission, it also made the game, well, hard to play. With a sequel in the talks, I began to wonder, would this game have been as funny if you simply were able to directly and easily control the Octodad? It’s more than possible to create games that are funny by the merit of their gameplay, so surely the folks behind Octodad could still retain the wacky premise of the first title in a second game if it actually played much better.
Comedy games have had a weird history. A handful of games have achieved the notion of a truly funny game, yet as a category it’s still disappointingly untapped. For years, we’ve had games that have had genuinely funny writing or storylines. Titles such as Psychonauts and MadWorld essentially derive their entire appeal from their sharp writing and excellent delivery— which is rather hard to do in a game consider that (with the exception of cutscenes) the actions of the player determine the timing of most jokes and punchlines. The best melding of this I’ve seen to date has been the adventure games from the golden era of LucasArts SCUMM games. Things like Monkey Island and Sam & Max definitely had both witty writing as well as chuckle-worthy solutions to many of the puzzles (rubber chicken with a pulley in the middle, anyone?). This is really easy for an adventure game where it’s essentially like playing out a novel or a movie, with a heavy emphasis on writing. But what about when we get closer to modern action driven games? The game MadWorld comes to mind, wherein the player takes part in a futuristic deathly game show. The fatalities are lurid and comedic, using excessive and vulgar violence to it’s benefit. Of course, this sort of gameplay and comedy gets rather stale after a while, so it’s kept fresh by the sharp commentary of John DiMaggio and Greg Proops, who’s own variety of misogynistic comments give the almost excessively violent gameplay some softer context and keep the laughs coming.
It’s hard to find the marriage between comedic writing and comedic gameplay, or even simply to make the gameplay alone funny. In a lot of modern cases, developers have put the responsibility of coming up with jokes in the hands of the players. Games like Dead Rising and Saints Row 2 put so many little gags in the hands of the player, giving them opportunity to combine them in custom ways to culminate into one laugh worthy moment of their creation. These games set out to illicit laughs from the audience, but only met us halfway, the rest is left to us in these cases. There’s also the unintended “lightning in a bottle” effect where somewhere in the development of a game, the elements become very funny, creating an almost black comedy— an experience very much like watching The Room. The product is not essentially trying to be funny, but in the fact that it takes itself so seriously, it adds to the sincerity of the moments that end up making you laugh when you should be tearing up. From the cringe-worthy dubbing of cult classic Earth Defense Force 2017 to the bizarre seriousness of Heavy Rain, these games also end up making us laugh for all the wrong reasons. Many other games try to recreate these moments on their own, but in trying to be self-deprecating only end up making a poor product, which in itself is neither funny nor entertaining.
I hope myself to get into the gaming industry, preferably as a designer or a writer. As such, I also would like to help create a funny game, something that makes you laugh as well as feel entertained. As I play these other funny games, I can usually see where some succeed and others fall flat. I lose it every time I see Bayonetta strut around while shooting up a battle or literally pausing midfight in order to strike a sexy pose. But I can’t deny that whenever a character in one of Telltale’s games makes some modern pop culture reference, I sigh and place my face firmly into my palm. Creating a funny game is definitely a challenge that is still being looked at. And while titles like Octodad and MadWorld are some of the few games that have made me laugh on the merit of their gameplay rather than their writing, I would like to see what other developers and games could do to make the game itself actually funny. So far it seems like the best solution is set up the joke and then leave it up to the player to develop their own punchline, but I’d bet there’s still more we can do to stumble upon that interactive comedy gold.
As seen in the new Crazy 4 Cult 5 gallery. I would kill to get this poster in real life.