How Tacoma Developer Fullbright Makes Games

Courtesy of Polygon.

This is exactly how I want to make games! With a small group of people, sharing ideas and trying them out easily, without having to go through the whole laborious processes you would at a big corporation. These people are truly living the dream.

Little Inferno Review

Little Inferno may be the strangest game I have ever played. It is many things, and at the same time, nothing. It’s hard to explain. I don’t even think I had fun playing it, and yet I still enjoyed it. Or maybe appreciate is the better word for it. It is definitely an art game, and difficult to recommend. If you’re looking for something distinctly game-y, like Tomorrow Corporation’s previous work (World of Goo), you will be disappointed. If however you are not looking for anything, you need to play this game.  Continue reading Little Inferno Review

Lone Survivor Review

I forgot I wrote this review a while ago when I played the game Lone Survivor. So, here’s what I had to say about it.

Lone Survivor is one of the only games that I thought I understood, but was frequently proven wrong. On the surface, it is simply another zombie game. But there is so much more underneath that I don’t quite understand yet. Often I found myself saying “What’s going on?” out loud. The confusion I had mirrored the confusion of You, the main character. You hallucinate. You meet other characters who don’t seem quite right. I’ll need to play it again in order to understand it further, but here’s what I took from my first playthrough:

Your choices end up mattering, and affect how the game goes. I unfortunately didn’t realize this until late in my playthrough. Your choices boil down to two things: avoid violence and hide, or confront the enemies by shooting them. I chose the latter option—the “Blue” ending. You can take pills to help you, which are mysteriously restocked every day. Blue pills give you more ammo. Green pills give you batteries for your flashlight. Red pills wake you up. When you take a blue pill, it makes you drowsy, and when you go to sleep, you dream you are on stage, sitting in a chair next to a man. You never learn his name, but I believe that he is a part of you, and his name is Draco, which I inferred from diary entries scattered about. He is the violent side of you. When you take the green pill, you dream of The Man with a Box on his Head, who is shown in a better light and presumably wears the box to hide from the world, as you do when you hide from enemies. The game seems to favor the Green path as more morally acceptable. However, both ways require you to rely on drugs to advance. They are easy to obtain and easy to fall back on, since they help so much. Take enough of them and you begin to develop a need for them, and the hallucinations start. I didn’t realize there would be any consequences, so I took as many as I wanted, since they were so helpful.

 

 

There are several side quests and supporting characters whom you meet, who either help you with items or advice—or nothing at all. Most of them are just weird and out of place. It makes me wonder how alone You actually are, and whether the zombie apocalypse is real. There are several scenes where You remember Her, or at least, feel like someone is missing. Her is presumably your girlfriend…I’m not sure. But it seems like she died, and You don’t remember Her. There are scenes in the game where you come across what appear to be relics of the past and signs of some sort of tragic event. However, your observations of them make them seem unrelated to the apocalypse, and out of place.

That’s how I would describe most scenes in this game: out of place. This is not just another zombie game. There are things at work here, layers and layers of meaning. You come across a crashed bus, which I believe might have been what killed Her. You survived, and were sent to the hospital, which explains why You were on the clipboard. And the monster you fight, with the sword things for arms? Apparently that’s your mother, according to the end stats screen. It tells you how many times you shot your mother in the legs. What the fuck.

In my ending, I finally got to control myself on the stage in my dreams. I walked over to Draco, and he was being a dick as usual, and dared me to shoot him, so You did. But it didn’t kill him—“You’ll have to do better than that!” It was incredibly weird. But everything went blank, and it cut to scenes of destruction and a desert and the tree and cliff overlooking it all, with You sitting next to Her, talking and holding hands. I think when I shot Draco, I shot myself, and then I died so I could be with Her. What happens when you get the Green ending? Do you just pretend everything is okay by hiding from your problems? And what happens if I don’t take any drugs at all and have a playthrough with both hiding and shooting? Will I not hallucinate, and see things more clearly? Would the story make more sense? There is a lot of room for interpretation here, and it probably requires multiple playthroughs. I enjoyed my one playthrough, but I don’t think I’ll be playing it again. It would be interesting to see how things could pan out differently, however.

8.0

Botanicula Review

Botanicula is one of the most beautiful, quirky games I have ever played. A point-and-click adventure game by Amanita Design, Botanicula doesn’t last long, but it holds your attention the whole time.

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Amanita Design is known for its old-school, point-and-click adventure games—you may have heard of its other game, Machinarium. In a time filled with first-person-shooters, Botanicula is a breath of fresh air. The last point-and-click game I played was probably Pajama Sam or Putt-Putt. Botanicula brought me back to those much simpler games. The gameplay is slow and calculated, letting you take in the artwork and puzzles at your own pace. I spent several minutes just staring at the beautiful art design. That is Botanicula’s main thrust: its unique, quirky art design sets it apart from other games. It almost kind of reminded me of a stop-motion Tim Burton or Henry Selick film.

Not to mention the fantastic sound design. The art and sound design work together to give the game a wholesome, organic feel. It sounded like most of the sounds were made with human mouths and voices, which was really cool. The music is relaxing and ambient.

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The gameplay is pretty straight-forward: solve puzzles with your mouse, have the characters move from screen to screen. The puzzles are pretty easy, which I didn’t mind at all, aside from one tricky puzzle near the end that I had to look up. Each group of levels has you collect a certain number of somethings to proceed. There are also cards to unlock by interacting with certain characters or objects. The game doesn’t give much incentive to actually collect the cards, since all they are are cards featuring a character, but the reward is in the discovery itself. Setting off a cool animation, discovering secrets—this is all the incentive the player needs.

Needless to say, I loved this game, and at $5 on GOG.com, plus all the extra stuff they threw in (artwork, wallpaper, soundtrack, avatars—check out my Tumblr avatar) it was totally worth it. I definitely recommend this game to the gamer who likes to stop and smell the flowers.

9.0

Making Games is Hard.

I guess I already knew that, but I’m reminded of it now that I’m helping to make another one for my Media Studies final project. It makes me think about all the hard work that goes into games made by small teams, like Dear EstherBraid, The Path, Super Meat Boy…the list goes on. After watching the documentary Indie Game: The Movie (watch the trailer here) I better understood the pain and struggle of completing a game. You put your sweat, blood, tears, soul, everything into it for a few years and let it out into the wild to be judged. You spent all your money on this game–if it flops, you’re broke. That’s part of the reason I buy indie games, and that’s part of the reason why I try not to make snap judgments about them. It takes so much time and money and must be the worst feeling in the world for it not to be received well. In Indie Game: The Movie they asked the creator of Fez what he would do if the game didn’t sell well, and he said, “Probably kill myself.”

But all that effort usually pays off. Independent games are often some of the most unique experiences you can find, pushing the boundaries of gaming and asking important questions. Often they engage the player on a much more emotional and intellectual level. In essence, they treat you with respect. Indie games are notoriously hard. They don’t coddle you. They don’t tell you everything you have to do. The developers understand that you are an intelligent human being and you can figure it out yourself.

Every game we played in my class was indie, which I think is saying something. The games we played had stories to tell. They were more than just your average shooter–they stuck in my mind for weeks to come, making me ponder their hidden meanings. I mean, Dear Esther is an extremely simple game gameplay-wise, and takes only two hours to complete, but it takes much, much longer to begin to understand the story and meaning in your head. When I came back to play it for the second time, I was surprised by the different text, and came to more revelations about the story. (I recommend everyone play it more than once)

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I’m not sure what point I’m trying to make here…but I guess I think more people should play indie games. A lot of my friends dismiss them as simple and stupid, but I think if more people gave them a chance they would not be disappointed. (Side-note: you can buy bundles of indie games here–you set your own price)