‘SUPERHOT’ is an Inspired, Downright Infuriating Action-Puzzle Shooter


Holy crap, that was a trip. When can I play it again?!

SUPERHOT is a short, browser-based First-Person shooter set within a white walled, unconnected set of nondescript corridors and warehouse. The main draw of the game is in its use of time and movement, namely that time will slow to a crawl and in some cases outright stop as you stand still, speeding up and resuming its natural state only when you begin moving yourself. The game had already premiered earlier this year, becoming a showcase winner at the WGK 2013 Game Developers conference, and with the effusive praise of tech writers and veteran gaming icons alike I can totally see why.

“Brilliant. FPS where time moves only when YOU move. Slick, clean, even the tutorials don’t f&#k around.”
Cliff Bleszinski, Co-creator Jazz Jackrabbit, Unreal, Gears of War.

“Like you’re playing through Quentin Tarantino’s version of the Mad Men opening credits.”
Philippa Warr, Wired


“Imagine a FPS where time only moves when you do? Oh, it’s been done. #superhotgame”

“…like Braid With Guns”
Mark Serrels, Kotaku

By way of this short online proof of concept, the developers behind SUPERHOT have created the abstract minimalist video-game equivalent to a John Woo action film. SUPERHOT combines the frenetic chaos of a cinematic shootout with the meticulous precision and coordination of a puzzle game.

The developers are currently petitioning for the game to be selected for the Steam Greenlight program. If they get enough support, a full-fledged version of this game could be commercially released, and wouldn’t that just make one mistake (i.e. the absence of such a game) all right and well in the world?

Seriously, go play this game, it’s wicked fun!


And go vote for it on Steam Greenlight!



Kickstarter Highlight: ‘Hyper Light Drifter’


I hope that readers won’t think that I have some superficial infatuation with dark premises, cloaked anti-heroes, neon-tinged graphics and pixelated art styles. I just thoroughly enjoy them, and think that they look cool ūüėČ


Should have brought a guitar…

“Hyper Light Drifter” is a top-down action platformer that feels reminiscent of SuperGiant Games’ Bastion meets the aforementioned art style of SuperBrothers’ Sword & Sworcery and thematically inspired by Hayao Miyazaki’s landmark 1984 film Nausica√§ of the Valley of the Wind. Naturally, that all sounds like a strong batch of delicious nerd gumbo, and all that is brought you by Alex Preston and Beau Blyth, who worked on the upcoming 2014 multiplayer samurai fighting game “Samurai Gunn” (which looks bad-ass in and of itself), and a core team including two music and sound designers (Disasterpeace and Baths).


I think I see an Evangelion “Angel” in there somewhere…

Drifters of this world are the collectors of forgotten knowledge, lost technologies and broken histories. Our Drifter is haunted by an insatiable illness, traveling further into the lands of Buried Time, steeped in blood and treasure hoping to discover a way to quiet the vicious disease. Echos of a dark and violent past from the dead eras resonate throughout and he can’t help but listen.

The graphical design reminds me vaguely of the music video for ‘Aldgate Patterns‘ by Little People, where a nomadic wanderer with a weird geometric mask goes on a search for his long-lost memories, stored on a floppy disk.


Automaton Golem

The game is projected to release in June of next year, and has already reached its initial goal of $27,000 as of its first day! The team is still looking for funding pledges beyond though, with stretch goals that include expanded levels, hiring additional animators, fleshing out the music score, more enemies to fight and more weapons and gear to fight them with!

If you’re interested (C’mon, how could you not be?!), Check out their Kickstarter page and consider becoming a backer.

Is that a God Warrior I see in the corner?(!)

Is that a God Warrior I see in the corner?(!)

‘The Stanley Parable’ Incentivizes Player Dissent In Service Of The Bigger Picture

You will play a game you cannot win.

When I played the original Stanley Parable mod back in 2011, I was nothing short of enraptured. That may seem like a hyperbolic compliment at first, but it’s nothing less than the honest truth. I thought that The Stanley Parable was an intelligently crafted, concise and interesting experience that more resembled a thought experiment than a traditional game, and it turned out to be one of my favorite “games” of 2011.

To make an even bolder claim, I’m willing to throw the full brunt of my endorsement behind The Stanley Parable in stating that it may in fact be one of the most important video games to have been released in the past decade. And with the imminent release of the definitive HD remake later this year, I thought it was about time that I write about why I love this game so damn much.

The game is more than just a gleefully tongue-in-cheek take on the emphasis (and futility) of player choice in a deterministic system. it is more importantly a¬†conversation, an interactive repartee between the player’s interactions and the condescending cajoling of a fatalistic¬†Narrator that brings to light the unconscious baggage of assumptions that both players and designers alike bring into creating a game experience.

The Stanley Parable¬†hinges on drawing the player’s attention to the unspoken assumptions of game design subtlety ingrained over the years¬†into the collective gaming community’s unconscious arsenal of navigational/problem-solving strategies.

Stanley’s Cubicle

You play as the eponymous Stanley, a worker drone happily content to “push buttons” and “listen to voices” all day from the safety of his cubicle office. The game opens with Stanley realizing that he is no longer receiving any instruction from his handlers any more and ventures out into the eerily deserted office building in search of answers, all the while accompanied by a mysterious disembodied voice seemingly narrating all of his actions. At any time you can diverge from the beaten path of the narrator’s story, but not without incurring some consequence.

What follows is an experience that is both gratifying hilarious and vaguely terrifying if you think about it too long. The Stanley Parable not only ¬†pushes but outright defies the conventional systems of gratification inherent in almost all commercial video games (see: “choices”, “endings”, “winning”), and instead substitutes it with the opportunity of allowing us, the player, to peer behind the proverbial “fourth wall” of game design and see the great and powerful “wizard” of choice for what it truly is.

A contrivance. A myth. Shadow puppets posing as reality on a wall.

You will follow a story that has no end.

At the same time, even though choice in The Stanley Parable is openly mocked and criticized (¬†even one of the game’s maxims is ‘You will make a choice that does not matter’), the choices that I made throughout my playthrough(s) of the Stanley Parable meant more to me than most of those I have made in any other commercial video game in recent memory.

When playing modern choice-driven narrative games (ex. Fallout 3, Mass Effect, Skyrim) it’s typical for players to try and consciously ‘game’ the system of a game in order to reap some long-anticipated endgame down the road. Players do mindlessly repetitious tasks ( “pushing buttons”, “listening to voices”) in order to farm currency in order to buy upgrades or weapons with diminishing returns, safely coasting along through starkly color-coded morality systems and unchallenging dialogue trees in order to get the “good” ending. “Good” in this sense meaning “not glaringly cobbled together at the last second by the developers in order to justify the word ‘choice’ featured prominently on the back of their game’s box.”

In contemporary game design, the merit of a choice is weighed by its outcome, with in most cases little to no recognition or actual “involvement” on part of the player’s agency.

The choices in Stanley Parable run counter to this.

The game offers six endings, each of them prompted by a diverging tree of choices that come down to either taking a certain corridor or pressing a certain button. None of these endings is definitive or “canon”; there’s only one ending where the words “The End” are featured, but in no way does it feel like a conclusion. Stanley Parable is a game whose enjoyment and “message(s)” rely on and thrive through replayability.

The difference between choices in Stanley Parable and other contemporary games is that the compensation isn’t some piece of gear or an arbitrary “achievement” pop-up, but the lucidity of watching these past choices and endings from previous “lifetimes” culminate with one another upon repeated breakthroughs, gradually building into a Jenga block tower of an epiphany that can fall apart at any given moment.

The Stanley Parable holds a mirror up to players and ask them to describe what they see. Why do we make the choices that we make? Why do we feel an almost innate desire to “break” a game? Why does playing point to point through a scripted story about rebellion and liberation feel so hollow and contrived?

Those and many more questions are up to the player to pose and perhaps, hopefully, come closer to answering while playing the game.

How I felt after playing the Stanley Parable.

The Stanley Parable follows in the iconoclastic tradition of Jacques Derrida; grappling with norms, demolishing presumptions, and leaving the audience to sift through the rubble to draw their own conclusions. It’s a lamentably rare experience and one of the most important video games of this generation. It is worthy of your notice.

Journey: Overcoming the hurdles of CMC and elevating the standard of multiplayer interaction

Not to be pigeon-holed into the description of just being a science-fiction film enthusiast, I’m also (predictably?) a video game enthusiast. As of this writing I am without a reliable next-gen console to call my own, and so I have not yet had the¬†opportunity¬†to play Journey, the newest multi-player creation of California based studio thatgamecompany. Despite this, I want to take some time out to talk about what appeals to me most out of all I have read, seen, and heard about this game.

Yes, there’s the beautiful art design stretched across a mysteriously sparse world begging for exploration, there’s the sweeping score and elegant sound design crafted to pull the player into the experience of the world while perfectly complementing the visual aesthetic of the game. But the big thing that leapt out at me and firmly placed it toward the top of my “must play games” list is it’s remarkable approach to cooperative multi-player gameplay.

As anyone who frequently plays video games with a heavy emphasis on online interaction between players can tell you, multi-player interactions can be a double-edged sword. A game designer can be accountable for only so many factors in the creation of a game before it gets into the hands of players. Internal glitches and other happy accidents aside, the bulk of what is experienced in a game is up to the individual player who interacts with it. This could be said of any video game, but multi-player games especially.

So how do you prevent players from creating a disruption to the game and the other players involved without inhibiting the enjoyment of their own experience? thatgamecompany takes the approach of simplicity. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity. By stripping the player of any extraneous abilities outside of traversing the vast terrain and working cooperatively with a single human counterpart to overcome obstacles to that end.

In addition to this traditional indicators of player identity, such as their personal “gamertags” and achievement/trophy scores, are withheld from one another until the game’s completion. But the final cooperative feature that seals the deal for me is the limitation of player communication between one another to a one button system of “chirping”, where a luminescent glyph appears temporarily over the head of the player to call ¬†attention from the other player. Why would I be so hyped up about “chirping”? Because as much I enjoy playing video games and sharing experiences through them and talking about them, I abhor multiplayer games typically. I could chalk it up to my inherent lack of coordination in outthinking and getting the drop on my opponents in tactical-shooters, though I very much enjoy playing Counter-Strike and the multiplayer component for Mass Effect 3.Instead I think owe my perspective to the nature and quality of interactions I have with random players on the internet. Now I’m fine with a couple of curses and colorful mock-insults thrown here and there, I’d be lying to saying I haven’t indulge in smack-talk myself from time to time. But the sheer persistence and creativity, or perhaps lack thereof, of players who make a goal out of griefing, putting down, and alienating a few select others or even an entire match of people is what really sets me off.

You can’t expect communication in gaming to evolve if its participants refuse to grow up beyond colorful assertions about the race or sexual preference of the person on the other side of the mic. The problem of Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) is that there is an inherent disconnect between what is being said and what is intended. We use different ways to circumvent this problem (emoticons, video chat, etc.) to varying degrees of success. This disconnect extends to the quality of the conversation between the participants involved as well, creating the opportunity for polarization and hyperbole. In short, people generally get dumber when they are given the license to say whatever they please to an audience that otherwise can’t ignore them without limiting their own engagement and enjoyment of a game.¬†Needless to say, no one wants to have to deal with this. So how do we alleviate this problem?

The¬†inability¬†to communicate beyond chirping in the gamespace of Journey forces players to not focus on what¬†separates them as individuals behind a console and instead on what matters in moment, the shared discovery of a desolate mysteriously aloof world with a single visually communicated goal. What’s that light at the top of the mountain? Follow the trail of ruins, crest the mountain and find out. Who you meet along the way is inconsequential¬†to the attainment of that goal, but the true reward of the game is in the journey ¬†to accomplish that goal. It’s not¬†necessarily¬†what you do, but who you do it with. thatgamecompany understands this quintessential truth about cooperative gameplay and it comes to flourish as perhaps the most potent selling point of the game. To quote Carl Jung, “We meet ourselves, time and again, in a thousands disguises on the crossroads of life”. In this moment of gaming culture Journey is just one of those many crossroads, though you’d be¬†surprised¬†with how transparent those ¬†“disguises” truly are.