Hellblade or: How I Learned to Keep Worrying and Appreciate Horror

As in life, many people go head first into video games cocksure and confident of their actions, be it with calculated puzzle solving skills or swift reactions and perfect aim.  I am not one of these people.

Save for Tetris – I am okay at Tetris – I doubt every action, question every decision and tentatively hover over every trigger.  I’m a gaming mess.  A gibbering, bumbling, anxious mess.

And this is why I hate Hellblade, or at least hate playing Hellblade.  Continue reading


Prey is Gay (and that’s bloody fantastic)

By using a little common sense and a lot of strong writing, Prey absolutely hits the nail on the head in its representation of gay characters.  The folks over at Arkane Studios are proving to be one of the most capable storytellers in the business with genuinely inventive twists.  Even the mimics, Prey’s lowest level enemies, defy their skittish facehugger-like appearance with the ability to mimic any object in the vicinity.  As collecting objects is essential, this makes every interaction unsettling.

It’s not that Prey is particularly inventive or even subtle in representing its gay characters but it avoids dimwittedly making a fuss about it.  Sexual orientation isn’t of particular importance to the central sci-fi narrative, so it is appropriately not overplayed.  That said, Prey is far from coy about its gay characters.  They are simply present.  Frankly, it’s the finest approach to the woefully unrepresented and misrepresented issue of sexual orientation. Continue reading

Watch Dogs 2 Makes an Impression

A quick glance at how the world and story of Watch Dogs 2 are connected; it’s all about making an impression

There was a moment playing Watch Dogs 2 when I wrestled with the god-awful handling of a tiny car and audibly questioned whether it needed to be an open-world game.  The appeal of the series was originally its go-anywhere, hack-anything premise, but the apex of the latest game is its characters and off-kilter story.

All I wanted was to experience this without the drudge of getting from A to B.   Continue reading

Batmobile Coming to Rocket League

The most exciting thing about Zack Snyder’s upcoming Batman Vs Superman is that its Batmobile is coming to the still very addictive Rocket League.  Check out the overly dramatic advert:

The Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Car Pack drops on 8th March, and already looks better than the film. 

Because the film looks shit.

Appetiser – The Divison Beta

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So The Division open beta has been crowned ‘the biggest beta ever for a new game brand on current generation platforms’, with 6.4 million players taking part in the glorified demo, all playing an average of 5 hours.

I was sceptical of The Division.  In general, RPG MMOs aren’t my cuppa, and after really, really trying to enjoy Destiny I had little hope for Ubisoft’s attempt.  No matter how much it looked like Freedom Fighters – seriously, where is Freedom Fighters 2?

Yet, I was pleasantly surprised by the beta.  Firstly, the network performance was good, with no drops and matchmaking actually working unlike the Rainbow 6 beta.  Secondly, the game was actually okay. Continue reading

Main Course: The Wolf Among Us review

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Having completely avoided the works of Telltale Games despite the barrage of praise The Walking Dead Season One received, I have finally succumbed to trying out their QTE based games that are a natural progression of the point and click adventures of yesteryear.  I had no interest in playing the Walking Dead as I have no interest in the comic book or TV series – sacrilege, I know – but I do have a slight interest in Fables, the source material of The Wolf Among Us.  Having read the first dozen or so issues and generally being intrigued by the concept, I thought I’d give finally give Telltale Games a chance.

In the game, you follow Bigby, the big bad wolf, as he attempts to keep peace and solve a murder mystery amongst ‘the fables’, the heroes and villains of fairytale stories that have been transported to Fabletown, New York City.The Wolf Among Us_20141207174004

Acting as a prequel to Bill Willingham’s comic, The Wolf Among Us shows us the grimm world that favourites such as Beauty and the Beast have been left to inhabit.  This is very much a human world, in which the characters have to struggle with issues such as debt, prejudice, adultery and life-consuming occupations.  It’s an inversion of the original tales we know and love, which used fantastic settings as metaphors for real life issues, as it brings those fantasies back into the real world to witness how these caricatures would survive in reality.  It’s a great yet simple premise with malleable lore that Telltale have used to its advantage.

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The use of cel-shading ensures the game is firmly rooted in a comic book world.  As far as I can tell there has not been a resolution bump for the PS4 version and the graphic fidelity doesn’t exactly bedazzle one’s balls.  There are also some minor clipping issues every so often.  But even when the textures are low res, the neon drenched noir-ness of it all lifts the game to heights that any attempt of realism in the graphics would undermine.  There were also a few instances where the textures turned to black or shook for no reason.  It would have been nice for Telltale to have smoothed these out for the PS4 release.

The world is full of small details, as every environment is dilapidated, dirty and messy in its own way.  This mostly echoes the divide between the good and bad side of town and the richer and poorer inhabitants.

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For me, the insight to these seedy lives outshines the choices that the game revolves around.  While the choices do become increasingly more interesting and influencing, the majority fall to good, bad, or, worse, no real consequence at all.  At times the game does give you a choice of which places to visit before another, and which ever you choose you’ll miss something or someone will die.  There is no right or wrong answer and little opportunity to circumnavigate this, it is simply a trap set for replay value.

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One great subversion of the branching narrative and choice system is when confronting Gren, a secondary rival-come-ally, who drops his tough guard only for the player to be told discreetly, ‘Gren won’t remember this.’  It’s a playful moment that fits the narrative and knowingly dismisses the choices made over the last five minutes.

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Some of the voice acting in the game can grate, such as with Toad’s comically flawed English accent.  The script isn’t gold either.  The obtuse swearing may seem unnecessary to some but it does sit well in the world.  There’s also the stereotypes, such as the silver-tongued villain and the morally ambiguous or poor having regional and distinct accents.  It’s a common trope in all forms of media that is a pet hate of mine, but it won’t be going away any time soon.

For me, Wolf Among Us triumphs where games like Heavy Rain failed by avoiding convoluted storytelling and gameplay and maintaining a charming simplicity.  It’s far from perfect, but at least it respects the source material and never becomes a chore to play.  I won’t be playing The Walking Dead or the upcoming Minecraft Telltale series anytime soon, but I will play the next entry to the Fables series.




Edible, yet slightly over cooked with a hint of what could have been.

Please consult the rating guide.