South Park Self

pity the child

Dragon Age: Inquisition comes out at the end of November, and in the twitchy, anticipatory interim, having played Origins and II obsessively for a few months, I need something to fill the void. This has led to some slightly experimental gaming, most recently: Gone Home, and Papo & Yo.


Gone Home was a tip from Jo: it isn't really a game so much as it's an interactive narrative that requires you to construct the story, bit by bit, from the information you find. You're returning to visit your family, but when you arrive, no-one's there. You wander around the house looking at things, and the pattern of events emerges gradually from the information you're given. It's not hugely sophisticated, but the sense of agency you have in building up the narrative is satisfying, and it plays very nicely with narrative expectation and trope. You continually skirt markers of horror or tragedy or melodrama, and then skitter away again; I kept thinking I knew what was going on, only to realise that it wasn't doing the clichéd thing I'd thought it was. Also, it's a period piece, deliberately pre-cell-phones or internet; it's frankly amazing to realise the nostalgic emotional charge behind a mix tape. This was a thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours of not-quite-gaming. Recommended.


I picked up Papo & Yo from a mention on Anna Sarkesian's excellent Tropes vs Women series, where she deconstructs the nastier misogynies of computer games; this was a counter-example. Papo & Yo is a puzzle game with minor platformer elements, although fortunately the bits where you have to jump between floating things are minimal and only gave me a few minutes of annoyance. (I'm incredibly bad at jumping between floating things, or pillars, or anything where you have to land neatly on a small area and then take off again. I think my real-life klutz tendencies give me Issues).

The game follows a young Brazilian boy as he negotiates a dreamlike urban setting made up of slum-like shacks but largely devoid of people, and curiously pastel and beautiful; his companion, a giant monster, is alternately oblivious and monstrous, and operates as a deliberate, poignant and extremely effective metaphor for child abuse by an alcoholic father-figure. The monster is both the challenge and part of the problem; you occasionally negotiate the puzzles by manipulating the monster so you can use his weight to trigger pressure plates, or bounce off his stomach, but he becomes a flaming, rampaging, horrible thing under the influence of the alcohol-metaphor. It's a fascinating playing experience because the occasional violence is entirely non-instrumental in game terms - you are thrown around and trampled but damage is not recorded in any formal way - yet is somehow infinitely more awful and disturbing than the more concrete and conventional kind which whittles down your hit-points.

Despite this, the game utterly charmed me. Its puzzles are entertaining and frequently whimsical, with glowing bits of string pulling buildings around and houses randomly growing legs or wings; its mood is gentle and full of a child-like delight and wonder at its own environment; and its conclusion, the exact antithesis of a boss-battle, is thoughtful and genuine enough to have moved me to tears. I loved this. Loved, loved, loved it. Play it if you're into puzzle games and haven't already; the PC version is on Steam. wolverine_nun, I'm probably looking at you.

(I am horrified to note, from my subject line, that the musical Chess appears to have imprinted me in early teenagerhood and cannot be eradicated. Stupid ridiculously catchy Abba writers.)
Thanks! I'll give it a look. I *could* spend my sabbatical playing computer games, but, all things considered, probably should not. I made a note of the name when watching the same Tropes video, but took it no further. I'll give it a look when I have time.
It's not long, a few hours of play, so you're not signing away vast tracts of your time :>. I thought of you because the feel of some of the puzzles remind me a bit of Machinarium.
F really enjoyed Gone Home but I didn't get into it quiet as much. I did however very much enjoy both Brothers (A tale of two sons) and Child of Light…both of which were whimsical, with a dreamlike pacing and in some places down right kooky with some totally unexpected story telling elements (that said child of light really needed to improve the terrible rhyming it subjects you too). Limbo and Braid were pretty good too…although my puzzling was severely challenged by the time dimension.

I will conclude though that my holy grail of gaming, the one to which I compare all others, will always be Bioshock. Every time F downloads some quirky new independent game with which to entice me, I confess I always ask "is it like Bioshock"--I like what I know and I know what I like!
Oh, lord, I can't deal with Braid - I love the concept, would love to experience its purported narrative innovation stuff, but the puzzles drive me bats. I've heard good things of Brothers, it's on my vague To Play list. Child of Light looks exquisite, but the "side-scrolling platformer" bit is rather terrifying, does it require serious dex skills in jumping and timing and the like? too much of that tends to undermine my enjoyment on account of how I'm crap at it - it's why I'll never wholeheartedly commit to Zelda.

What did you like about Bioshock? I loved its atmosphere, but as a FPS I didn't find it as enjoyable in gameplay terms as something like Skyrim. I still haven't got more than half an hour into Bioshock III, the combat is eluding me completely.
I confess, I have only been able to play braid vicariously (with F on controls) as it is one of those games that me defaulting to button mashing really does nothing at all…but yes, I to have wished that my skillz were more in line with my desires as it tantalisingly promises so much...

Brother's was really beautiful and atmospheric…and I may have even cried…as the narrative was that good…and conformed to no expectations I could ever have had!

Child of light wasn't too tricky in terms of game play, but we use an X-box controller (connected via USB) which may have made things easier. There were only a few places where there was a time based element, and even then it was not so frantic that it ruined the pace. It was nicely challenging. However, they really let themselves down with the rhyming storytelling…so annoying!

Bioshock isn't sandbox so there is quite a tight narrative arc, I found after awhile with skyrim that I was wandering the same dwarf mines and nordic crypts. Bioshock is not like that, it's a 6+2 hour run--which suited me. With skyrim I keep loosing track of which quest I am on, or getting distracted halfway through and doing another quest instead…Bioshock pretty much has one path.

The reason I like it…in short…everything! The atmosphere and world are awesome (they really get into the dystopian brave new world stuff, which I love, and time travel); the story which carries across all three games (and expansions) is intriguing; the game play is good (you can be stealthy or button mash) and your game style effects how the splicers interact with you to a degree; the pacing (going from exploring to fast paced action) is well balanced and your moral decisions matter (at least in the first one).

Personally I liked Bioshock 2 the best…but that is probably because by then I was much more confident on the controls and familiar with the world…and it was pretty cool being a big daddy! They changed the combat for infinite (3)…and it wasn't until the second part of under the sea that I got my swagger back…also the story is not as strong as the first two.
Skyrim was the game I played directly prior to commencing my Bioshock binge…and transitioning from skyrim combat to bioshock 1 controls wasn't too drastic--if anything it was simpler.

In summation, it is rare that I find a game that covers my need for narrative, has combat that isn't too easy but doesn't require remembering 92 button combinations and is just so gosh darn immersive! It is my pinnacle to which all else is compared...

Edited at 2014-09-19 01:33 pm (UTC)