New Game+

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It can be easy to forget how tough telling a compelling story in a video game can be. Some games do it brilliantly, like last year’s Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, but others tend to struggle. Sometimes telling a story within an interactive medium requires sacrificing some of the gameplay in order for the narrative to stand front and center. Kan Gao, the creator of one of my favorite games, To the Moon, fully understands this. No one will call it a masterwork of game design, but few can deny the impact of its story.

In lieu of a proper review, I thought I would take the time to talk about Kan Gao’s latest title, A Bird Story. Although it features no dialogue and is a lighter story than To the Moon, it’s a yet another prime example of finely-crafted interactive fiction.

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I’ve written a lot about horror games, specifically regarding how the genre has gone through a bit of a renaissance in recent years. There have been a surprising number of quality horror games, and with the recent announcement of a new Silent Hill title, plus Capcom’s supposed effort to bring Resident Evil back to its roots, it’s safe to say we’ll be seeing plenty more.

This brings me to this month’s newest horror releases: Alien: Isolation and The Evil Within. Both are modern horror games, yet they both approach the genre from entirely different perspectives. Best of all, you can look at both games as example of how to do modern horror right and how to do it, well, not so right.

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There’s something calming about driving in video games. This is especially true of open-world driving games, many of which allow you to explore and learn more about the world you are (virtually) inhabiting. I do enjoy driving in Grand Theft Auto and the like, but it’s not the same. The original Forza Horizon and its recently released sequel are more my speed. It provides a similar feeling as sailing, but the sense of speed and (sometimes) laid back atmosphere the Forza Horizon games provide manage to scratch a different itch.

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A recent trend in the industry, specifically in action games, has been masterfully blending action and stealth to make for an excellent combo. Titles like Crysis, Metro: Last Light and even Dishonored have managed to make both play styles feel just right. No matter what your preference is, you’ll most likely find something to like about these titles. The recently released Wolfenstein: The New Order might be the best example, providing you with only a few options but polishing those options up to a mirror sheen. READ MORE

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Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for the second season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead.

I wrote about the first season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead a little more than a year ago, covering exactly why the choices in that game matter despite how little impact they might have on the overall story. It was a near-perfect execution of choice in games, simply because it didn’t throw in your face how “important” or “world-changing” your decisions were. Often, it would simply ignore them right before your very eyes. Despite that, those decisions still lingered, and turned just another zombie story into something unique.

It ultimately created a sense of trust between the writers and those who experience that story. Unfortunately, The Walking Dead: Season Two violates that trust in the worst ways possible.

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When you think about classic Square franchises, what comes to mind? Final Fantasy would be your immediate reaction, but there’s also Mana, Kingdom Hearts, the Chrono games and even Front Mission. One I feel is rarely discussed is SaGa, a series I consider one of Square’s best (or at least its boldest). Let’s talk about what makes the series so groundbreaking despite how little attention it is paid by those fondly remembering the days of Square’s past, focusing on my favorite of the bunch, SaGa Frontier.

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As I mention in my review of the new indie title Hohokum, I prefer games with structure versus those that tend to let you roam free, learning as you go. Hohokum’s aimless approach was both its greatest strength and weakness, yet it made me realize I appreciate similar titles and their approach to that design. It’s not the best example of this approach to game design, but it had me thinking about those design philosophies and how important they are to gaming as a whole.

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Spoilers for Transistor ahead! Don’t read on if you haven’t finished the game and want to keep those last moments a complete surprise.

Let’s talk about Transistor. It’s a game I love, but not entirely for the reasons I expected to. At first, I found myself put off by its combat and story that seemed to constantly keep you far enough away to learn anything. Slowly but surely the pieces began to fall into place, revealing a late game section that began to change things dramatically. But this isn’t about those moments. This is about two characters and most importantly how Supergiant managed to turn an unorthodox relationship into the game’s greatest strength.

As with Bastion before it, there are plenty of worthwhile moments prior to its ultimate conclusion, but its conclusion is, ultimately, what matters most. READ MORE

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Snackbar Games’ column carousel wraps up with Graham Russell taking a break from Multitap and Gaijin Guide to pen this edition of New Game+.

When faced with taking the baton from Andrew for a week and delving into the deeper sorts of topics in game design, I knew I had to write something about menus, because the topic is a very crucial one to everything I love. Set aside for a moment my graphic design day job, too: menu systems and general interface design can make or break local multiplayer experiences, as new players need to be able to dive in immediately, and they’re also crucial to playing import games, as if it’s done right, you know what each button and item does without having to understand any of the language. But even outside of those contexts, it’s a crucial thing, because the easiest way to keep people from enjoying a fundamentally good game is to frustrate them before they can learn the ropes. READ MORE

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When attempting to recreate historical events in video game form, few actually succeed, often relying on a base understanding of history in order to provide a well-rounded experience appealing to a broader audience. These games seemingly sacrifice accuracy for entertainment and potentially lose something in the process. Ubisoft’s Valiant Hearts is a title that surprised me for a multitude of reasons, but its focus on utilizing historical facts in an otherwise-fictional representation of World War I is what stood out to me the most, creating an experience that felt authentic despite its cartoonish exterior.

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