Trouble Thinking

July 19, 2012

Steam Summer Sale 2012: Days 7 and 8

Filed under: Game News — Tags: , , , , — Durandal @ 6:17 pm


-Gratuitous Tank Battles: Have not heard great things. Get Gratuitous Space Battles instead, wait on this until you’re really certain. $7

-Indie Bundle VIII: Man these things have been a mishmash. Hoard, not worth it, Swords and Soldiers seems fun looking, Demolition Inc is interesting but flawed… I mean it’s just such a mishmash. I can’t imagine someone interested in all of these. Worth it if you want all of them? But, you won’t. $10

-Krater: Interesting, but flawed. Get if you like flawed weird gems. It’s kind of an old-school RPG, only a bunch of shit isn’t working the same, usually for the worse? That makes it sound terrible, just try the demo it’s probably worth it if you like the demo. $7.50

-The Witcher 2: Yes. Yes now, yes get it get it now it’s the best fucking RPG. It’s so good, so good. They even updated it for free with a bunch of extra shit just because they love us. It’s fun, engaging, reasonably complicated, it manages a bunch of shit people keep whining about games being unable to do. $16

-Alan Wake: I’ve heard middling things. Nice high-production-value game, decent but repetitive action and a mildly interesting but mostly wasted narrative. I wouldn’t bother unless you’re really intrigued. $7.50

-Fallout New Vegas: I’ve heard amazing things, go for it! Fallout 3 was actually pretty fun, worthwhile. It’s one of those games I never actually finish finish though which nags at me forever so I’m not into it, you should give it a shot though. $5

-Amnesia The Dark Descent: Fun! Go for it. One of the only scary games, even if people keep acting like it’s the most frightening thing in the world, and it just ain’t. $5

-Sniper Elite V2: I’ve heard decent things. Kind of inherently repetitive though. I wouldn’t bother for $25, it’s a series of pot-shooting exercises.

-Plants vs. Zombies: Fun times, not worth $10, definitely worth $2.50


Yesterday’s Deals:

-STALKER: YEP. Get it, now. Yep. It’s a fun, weird, strange shooter/RPG that just you cannot get any other way. Nothing else is quite like it, you need to give it a shot now. $3.75

-Age of Empires Online: NO. $2.50

-Thief Deadly Shadows: The whole series is such a touchstone, this is a necessary purchase. At least Deadly Shadows, the latest best-looking one. I’ve heard it’s less interesting than the early ones, but it’s probably worth not seeing super early-gen 3D $2.50

-Super Meat Boy: The best platformer, yes. $3.75

-Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion: Instead, grab the Sins of a Solar Empire: Trinity deal, it’s only $5 and you’ll get essentially the same dang game. Pony up for Rebellion if you’re really into it. $25

-Total War Mega Pack: Eh. They’re big, impressive, but I’ve never really felt that much for them. Fights are huge and impressive but not nearly fun enough, and the strategy AI isn’t quite smart enough to be fun. $12.50

-Indie Bundle VII: Dungeons of Dreadmor is definitely worth it, the rest I’m not certain about. I’ve seen Vessel and it seems like a good puzzler, and Avadon is from Spiderweb Software, who make good shit. Yeah, go for this one. $10

-L.A. Noire: Supposed to be wonderful, but like Alan Wake it’s leaning more production values than actual gameplay. Unlike Alan Wake, the gameplay it does have is interesting and reasonable uniquely focused on investigation and interrogation. Go for it at $5, come on.

-Carpe Fulgur Collection: Only get Reccetear, but get Reccetear. It’s a weird sort of almost Diablo clone, but you also run a cute little item shop oh man it’s the best. $5

July 14, 2012

Steam Summer Sale 2012: Day 3

What to get, what to ignore? Listen to me, I’ll tell you … more!

-Tropico 4: Get Tropico 3 for $2.50 instead. Just about the same exact thing, fun little Sim City sort of game where you’re an island dictator. Good times! $7.50

-Two Worlds II: Silly name aside, I’ve heard good things about this game from a bunch of people. It seems solidly in “flawed gem” territory. Give it a go if you’ve either already played or can’t afford Skyrim. $7.50

-Frozen Synapse: Buy this game, buy it now. It’s great, interesting, very worth a shot. Simultaneous tactical turn-based combat is an underappreciated genre. $5

-Indie Bundle III: Well, if you’ve still not got braid, obviously. I also dig Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet. Runespell, Bunch of Heroes, and Bit.Trip Beat are also on offer, but I’ve not heard a ton about them, Runespell I think was eeeeh. Kind of seems like these packs always have a few duds. $10

-Skyrim: I’ve heard it’s good! If you’re into open-world RPG action, it’s the king at the moment. $30 is a bit steep during a big sale, but now’s the time to grab it if you want it, it won’t be lower than $30 for a long time.

-Dirt Showdown: I cannot comment at all on racing games. Sooo… do what you will. $25

-Borderlands: Great fun, good with friends, a bit samey and has both the best and the worst loot (I spent half the game with one gun, because it was the best gun I rolled all game), and the worst ending. But grabbing it and the expansions would be great if you’ve got some friends to play with. $5

-Orcs Must Die!: GET THIS. It’s an excellent tower-defense/action game that maintains a high level of fair challenge the entire way through, gives you reason to make use of all the tricks available, is nicely strategic, and the right side of funny. Great game, for $3.75 you’re an idiot if you don’t pick it up.

-Dead Island: I have heard it described as a solid dungeon-crawler with Zombies but… I mean I don’t know. I think it’s probably fine, this is just the game where we all decided Zombies were played out. Probably a bunch of fun if you still think Zombies are neat! $10

Flash Deal You Need:

Nah, not today. They’re all fine but not setting the world on fire.

May 18, 2012

Grim Dawn Kickstarter: 11 Hours Left if You’re Interested.

Filed under: Game News — Tags: , , , , — Durandal @ 12:48 pm

So I’ll keep this short on account of you not having much time: this one game by some of the people who made Titan Quest seems like Post-Apocalyptic Diablo, only a bit harder and they’re putting some effort into making it sort of a dynamic open world. They’re in the last legs of their Kickstarter, just going for a bunch of stretch goals to add content. Also, it’s completely DRM-free.

Look at their gameplay videos and see if you give a shit. It’s $18, which isn’t nothing but also doesn’t look too dang bad for a game that’s surprisingly pretty and polished. As always though remember: it’s a Kickstarter. You may be paying for shit you don’t like, and there’s no way to get money back. Be wary!

May 2, 2012

Endless Space: What’s this now? What? HMMM

Filed under: Game News — Tags: , , , , , , — Durandal @ 11:19 pm

Hello there! Are you excited by space? Are you super into spaceships and vast galatic empires? Are you mildly aroused by the concept of controlling a vast fleet of warships that travel the universe subjugating civilizations?

Yeah me too.

So 4X games, set in space, are my bread and butter. Except they aren’t! Because many are super shit. In fact, of the ones I’ve played I don’t have a ton of favorites. AI War is amazing and everyone should get it, but I had the misfortune of cutting my teeth on the legendarily not very good Master of Orion 3, which cooled me on things. Alpha Centauri was fun but you know a distinct lack of warships. Galactic Civilizations felt like playing a German boardgame with a pride of mildly demented grandfathers. Sword of the Stars 2 was a goddamn atrocity. I got my money back, a first. It wasn’t even completed! Just sort of shipped hoping no one would open the box. I guess Star Ruler is actually getting super neat I should take a look at that… Star Chamber, a weird trading-card/strategy hybrid was probably the most fun I’ve had with the genre in a long bit.

So the point is a new thing popped up on Steam today, Endless Space.

Now, with all the starts being kicked recently I am getting slightly mildly suspicious when someone promises me a cool game in exchange for investment/preorder whatever. And seriously, I preordered SotS2 and it was so bad. But Endless Space intrigues me. It’s reasonably cheap, $27 for the most expensive version. It also has a neat sort of alpha/beta participation system, where when you buy the game you get  Games2Gether Points. Which sound really silly! But it’s not a bad idea, it’s a distinct developer-mediated methodology for getting fan input. Sometimes you want a wild font of ideas on a forum, it can be great. But sometimes a half-dozen people saying you should “allow people to enter the game like the matrix so that we can play like if it was the matrix” and you just want to take a reading on something more concrete. The examples up at the moment are competing logos for a faction design, and competing designs for a certain type of pirate ship. And I mean, why not? You’re guaranteed to nail down a few little features that don’t actually matter, and it creates an atmosphere of participation for fans who let’s face it are not always the most brilliant design mavens.

And that’s not all! It actually looks kind of really neat. I wish they had a real demo out, because it looks like it hits an amazing note of simplicity married to complexity that these sorts of games really need. It has a beautiful, clean interface (from the screens and videos I’ve seen) that just looks like a joy to observe while pretending it is a display on the deck of your command carrier. It’s unfortunately vague on a lot of gameplay specifics, because you know it’s a 4X so you… 4X things. It’s really hard to pin these sorts of games down without actually spend an hour or twenty with them, so that does make me pause. But fucking look at this:

It’s so CLEAN

And it’s all like that, just this slick as hell UI letting you do what you actually want to do: colonize, build, diplomacize, and murder. Also interesting is that the battle system seems a bit unique. Basically you make important decisions, but leave the actual to-do to mostly automated processes. On the one hand, I like telling everything what to do. On the other hand, part of the allure of being a Space Ruler is that you get to order people to do shit and make them figure it out. If the system allows for actually interesting tactical decision-making in the battles, it’ll definitely be fun. Particularly if new techs open up the field a bit more.

And I mean what a goddamn tech tree, right? Again: Clean, beautiful, functional. I love it when games like this realize that accessible UI is what you need to feel like an in-control ruler. If I’m governing by Excel I am not going to feel cool.

I am almost certain the top middle is some sort of sweater tech.

Anyway! There’s a very neat look at the Alpha build with some nice things to say at Space Sector, and in the meantime here’s a movie! I really think I might drop money on this. I mean, SPACE.

April 12, 2012

PAX: The Stuff You Should Have Checked Out

First of all, check out PAX if it’s at all feasible. It’s a good convention, makes you feel a little less like every person who likes video games is a weird jerk, an antidote to comments section of any website. Lots of neat stuff was on display.

I am almost certain I wasn’t imagining the fact that the Far Cry 3 booth had a tattoo artist. Which just… I’m not certain who, on the Friday morning of PAX, thinks to themselves “oh yeah, a tattoo. yes gotta get that done today” what the hell. There was also the typical mix of cosplay, from the amazing, like this Doctor Who thing or this incredible Mordin Solus to the weird like anyone dressed as Tingle. Oh, and I think I’m going to say anyone in a utilikilt counts as being in weird, horrible cosplay. Also some of the panels were cool I guess good times on the whole.

But! The important part of PAX is: to what games should you focus your rapt attention? What things will go from unknown to complete must haves right now?

Well… I’m hoping it’s absolutely none of the big names because I only had a Friday ticket and fuck waiting in lines. Seriously, they have to realize waiting in line for a preview trailer is the equivalent of beating your child, right? Like… it’s just… of course I know what it’s going to be like. That’s why I waited in line! I don’t need to wait in line to get PR material!

The Indie people on the other hand are desperate hardscrabble youths willing to put out. They all had extensive demos that I spent way more time with than expected.

The BEST GAMES AT PAX in no particular order:

Spelltower: So, I really dislike the iOS. It’s somewhat irrational, mostly it has to do with Apple being just this side of madly cackling with every product release. They just definitely seem up to something and it makes me uncomfortable to give them money. And the nice bit has been that until recently it didn’t matter. The iPad is either a shitty computer or a giant version of your phone. This game though, so fun. It’s like Scrabble but good. You have, in the “real” Puzzle game mode, a few lines of random letters on the bottom. You need to make words in order to get the tiles to disappear. Every time you make one, the tiles rise another level. So like scrabble crossed with Tetris but more fun than that sounds.

A Valley Without Wind: Okay I will admit I was incredibly wary of this one. I’m an AI War/Tidalis superfan so Arcen has my good will but it seemed like the art for this one was wicked wonky and it went from top-down to 2D platformer overnight for some reason. Really dodgy seeming! BUT then I played it. It’s a randomly generated metroidvania set in a weird post-apocalyptic world and you can shoot lightning at skeleton robots. AND every time you die, “you” stay dead, you pick a new character and can find your old shit and you can build towns over time and it’s just in general really neat. Also, I may have accidentally told the artist that I didn’t like his work at first accidentally. I like it now though, guy! It’s cool!

Lawnmower Challenge: Another tablet/phone thing! This is just a simple, nice puzzle game. Straight up: mow lawn in the fewest steps. Adds complexity like keys and needing to cut down trees and etc etc as you go, apparently the largest level takes something like 800 steps for a perfect, which seems cool!

Antichamber: This just is the bee’s goddamn knees. Alexander Bruce is the only man in games who understands what you can do with games. It’s a puzzle game which fine isn’t that innovative, but it’s in space that cannot exist. It requires you to think weirdly, it rewards you constantly with strange experiences, and it’s beautiful. It’s so much easier to do these weird escher worlds in a game than in any other possible medium and god damn this is a slap to the face of all other games, a slap wearing a glove that reads “try making something interesting booooom”.

Guacamelee: So this is a pretty solid action/platformer that did not light my world on fire but also was just … happy. It was a happy time with a friend in co-op. Everything is designed so that whichever of you sucks never holds the good one back, you just sort of pop happily along suplexing skeletons and shifting dimensions. Playing around with switching between fire and water in the Temple of Fire/Water was pretty cute. Also! You can turn into a chicken if you want. And it’s even surprisingly funny.

Super T.I.M.E Force: So I didn’t get to play too much with this but! It’s a game where you fight left to right, as tradition dictates, but when you die and restart, you fight along your past self. And you can save yourself in the past to grant an extra life in the present! It’s… super cool.

Monaco: Holy shiiiiiiiiiit. It’s beautiful. It’s so cool. It’s like an action arcade robbery game. It’s a massively underused setting, that of robbing shit as a gang of gentlemen thieves, and it does it so fucking well. The map on screen is a blue-print, until you enter a room, and everything in your line of sight becomes “real”. I know that’s not the most important part of the game but making it look that cool says something about how much thought it’s had put into it.

Skulls of the Shogun: So basically 4-player ghost-skeleton chess, but the movement rules seem more like Warhammer? Like, you get units at the start, you move them about in a certain circle radius, you fight other units, first to kill the general wins. After that there are tons of other minor and major tactical considerations, but the most important part is that it’s a super nifty board game essentially, with up to 4 players on one screen. Good times with good friends killing undead samurai.

Miegakure: The only game Antichamber didn’t slap. It’s a reasonably simple platform/puzzler with the twist that you can move in 3 dimensions, but swap out one dimension with a 4th spatial dimension. So basically, you can travel through time/walls by moving through a dimension we don’t normally see. Like if you were a 2D person, the fact that a 3D person can’t be stopped by a circle would be weird. In Miegakure you get to experience what it feels like to look at 3 dimensional beings trapped in a cube and go “haha dicks just step around the walls”. Super cool.

Kairo: A game about exploring massive, strange spaces and solving massive strange puzzles. It’s… I don’t know. If you’re like me you’re at half-mast just from the description. It’s all well and good to shit on Myst and everything, but I just have a real love of exploring strange spaces. STALKER, for instance, was less about shooting shit for me and more about finding weird old soviet structures warped by strange radiation. Same with Fallout. Looking at something in the distance and finding out why it’s there is just super cool. Like archaeology but with the boring edited out.

Retro/grade: A shooter played backwards, and on the guitar. You move through “space lanes” by using the frets, you strum to pick back up the shots you fired, and you dodge the enemy shots that you’re backing into. It’s really neat. And surprisingly pretty! A fun rhythm … not shooter, catcher?

Snapshot: Puzzle platforming again, but you can take pictures of things and drop them in the level to progress. It’s not like, crazy, you basically get a good way of teleporting small devices around to help you solve a puzzle, but it was solid fun stuff.

Not Without You: I didn’t get to play it! But, it was a game about moving two little creatures in unison in order to get them into two escape hatches at the same time so they can escape a place! It’s cute, and insanely hard.

Girls Like Robots: Simple fun slide-puzzle game. It’s really just a game about placing things in the right spot via a combination of trial and error and clever thinking. It’s hard to make it sound fun but I basically played until strong hints were dropped that I should stop playing because seriously stop taking up the booth jerk. Engaging, is the word.

Nexuiz: Unreal Tournament. But… slightly different. Mutators that you can choose to activate, that’s fun. But basically jumping shooting fun times.

Dragon Fantasy: A game starring the creator’s recently deceased father, that he obviously put a crazy amount of love into. Fun old-school RPG with a strange and affecting protagonist, a chubby ex-hero learning to hero again. He’s already developing the 16-bit sequel that looks cool as well!

And that is literally every game there. Because if you had a booth larger than my apartment with a single screen playing your preview trailer your game wasn’t really there, ass.

November 3, 2011

Bastion is Great, Buy It After The Steam Sale Ends.

Filed under: Game News, Game Reviews, Video Games — Tags: , , , , , , , — Durandal @ 11:53 am

Bastion is such a danged excellent experience, I recommend you pay more than $7.50 for it. In fact, not only should wait until you have the opportunity to pay $15, you should send Supergiant games an extra $5 to thank them.

Briefly, Bastion is a beautifully rendered dungeon crawl/action-RPG. Less briefly, Bastion tells the story of a young man who wakes up to find the world has shattered around him in the night and sets out to put everything back together. He’s guided… well, you’re guided, by the voice of an old man telling the story of how he does it. The narrative conceit, added late in the development apparently, works amazingly well. You’re gently guided to the right paths, you get commentary on your actions that can be pithy or surprisingly touching. There are also some very well done bits where the old man can only tell you what he thinks may have happened, which is a nice way of turning the previously omniscient narrator into a portion of the story.

Bastion is a triumph of form over function. It’s a game type I’ve played dozens if not hundreds of times before. You walk, you smack, you gather, you build. But with an astoundingly deft touch, the writing and art direction manages to make you care so much more than you expect in a game like this. It comes, appropriately, in both big and little pieces. The beautiful painted landscapes that rise out of nothing to meet you as you run, the spare lines of text that hint at a society you wish you could have seen in full flower, the way the narrator seems ashamed of the fact that he needs to send a kid to do the dirty work, the distant music from a time you’re trying to bring back. All of these pieces of design lift what could have been a standard slogging kill-fest into something simultaeously melancholy and heartening.

This is one of the few games where the compulsion toward completionism that I tend to feel regardless carried some emotional weight. I wasn’t making sure I had all the upgrade structures, I was putting back the pieces of a shattered world so that a hard-working kid could finally rest. I wasn’t getting achievements, I was paying tribute to the people that would be forgotten without me. Its a game with few characters, but it makes you feel for all of them. Including the beasts you need to kill to make your way in the world. It’s not mawkish or sentimental, either. It just presents you with a situation that is unfortunate and too few options to fix it.

Through these touches Bastion achieves one of the best game narratives I’ve seen, using subtle strokes to tell a story bigger than the part you play in it.

The best recommendation I can give is that immediately upon finishing it, I wanted to wipe my memory and start again from the beginning. Hell, it’s got a newgame+, I may do just that.

Buy Bastion at Half Off!

October 5, 2011

Humble Frozen Synapse Bundle! Lots of Games! Super Frigging Cheap! Geeeet It!

Filed under: Game News — Tags: , , , , , — Durandal @ 3:24 pm

So, hey. Humble goddamn BUNDLE. We all know what this means.

Let’s cut to the chase.

Buy this fucking thing. It’s $anything. It’s $anything. Don’t think about it, don’t hem and haw about how maybe you can’t afford any amount of money greater than or equal to $0.01.

At first, it was just a copy of Frozen Synapse (an excellent game, retailing for over $20 right now).

They then added a copy of the Humble Frozenbyte Bundle, 5 more games. NOW IT HAS SPACECHEM. Do you understand? SpaceChem. The World’s Best Puzzle Game.

GEEEET THIS. Goddamn it I’m starting to hate you just because I can tell you’re reading this sentence instead of getting it. I hate you so much you agh I hate you. Buy it.

October 3, 2011

Free! Free Game Today!

Filed under: Game News — Tags: , , , , — Durandal @ 4:52 pm

I don’t even know what to tell you, a cute little Roguelike with pretty graphics is free today for no discernible reason! Go here and check it out immediately!

It’s free so I don’t know what you’re waiting for, but here’s a trailer!

September 30, 2011

Addictiveness Will Kill Games

So hey! Gaming! Oh man, isn’t it cool how everyone basically plays games now? Even Grandma knows the Book of a Thousand Faces has some jingly-jangly things on it you can entertain yourself with. It’s like your hobby has “gone viral” or “mainstream” or “maybe now people will listen to my Starcraft stories”.

And it’s really a good thing. I’m a fan of it! It’s a form of entertainment with a lot to give and not enough people treated it seriously. If only 5% of the population watched films, we’d be poorer for it. So yes! Everyone should get their hands on a game and give it a shot. And, also, I’d love it if each and every game they tried playing weren’t a payload specifically designed to destroy their life and finances, finally leeching the calcium from their bones and rolling back, bloated with the life-force of what used to be a human being, to sinister men who make their beds in the acute angles of reality.

There is a focus, unambiguous and unashamed, on making games “addictive”. It’s used as metaphor, a buzzword because hahaha games aren’t a real drug wiiiiink get it we just mean make it like it’s a horrible destructive worthless thing designed to promote self-harm. And to an extent, that’s true. Chemical addiction hits harder and more often. But that doesn’t mean that non-physical addictions don’t exist. Ask someone who lost their kid’s college fund gambling if they felt fully cognizant at the time. The point is, as terribly fearmongering as “mom leaves kid in car to play WoW” and the like are, it’s fundamentally a bad thing to be focused more on exploiting customers via addiction than producing a fine product.

And that’s where we are. Zynga is a success. It’s not the devil, no. Their shitty facebook games aren’t hurting people. But then, they aren’t supposed to. They’re supposed to exploit well-studied psychological triggers in order to transfer money from people to Zynga.

Other people have followed eagerly, including major established developers. The actual game has been identified as a barely-necessary middleman, something to be created in as spare a manner as possible, in order that people get hooked on the transference of money out of their pockets. Many modern game developers have stated implicitly that they would be delighted if they could simply avoid the messy business of actually crafting a game, and get on with tapping into the spines of unwary consumers. If “Dragon Age Legends” sold more copies than Dragon Age 2, you’d never see a full game from EA again.

Yes, it’s nice that people are playing games, and it’s nice that games are breaking into previously untapped demographics. Yay for a broader culture, maybe we’ll all learn something.

But for fucks sake, people playing Farmville shouldn’t be playing that when something like Anno 1404 is on the market. I know I know, it isn’t browser based, it’s not free, there’s a learning curve… all valid issues. But the thing is they shouldn’t be playing something more substantial in order to receive some sort of cultural cachet from me. They should be playing something more substantial because at least the people who created that tried to give them something. It’s not the difference between seeing Rashomon and seeing Transformers so much as it is the difference between seeing Rashomon and getting shanked in the ankle.

The people making these shit little money-sinks do not like you. Yes, you can still find their products fun. But that is an accident, one they hope to correct in the future.

God damn I hope no one paid $99 for that fucking Dragon Age Facebook game.

Here’s an interesting piece from an industry insider that spurred this post to a large extent. He does get a little bit wanky and verbose, so feel free to skip everything after the first page.

September 22, 2011

Why Can’t Games Scare Us?

More silly than terrifying. Especially the 40th time.

Horror games are pretty tense right? You’re sprinting through the ruin pursued by Elder Things that are nipping at your heels  if the portal closes the world will be plunged into a dark only the Old Things survive, and they will sup on our souls for eternity! Super freaky.


Until you die. Or get stuck. The moment you hit “escape”, load a previous save, or are thrown back to a checkpoint. Even games like Amnesia: The Dark Descent, which recommend special care be taken to enjoy them in the proper spooky environment (lights dimmed, headphones, etc.) are palpably straining not to kill the player. Because the moment you die that atmospheric scramble through the ancient ruin becomes an exercise in getting from A to B.

Scary games have a unique advantage: interactivity. Other media has to collapse possibility into a single event quickly. The chase scene begins, and with each second it becomes more definite that this will not be the death of the protagonist. A game allows you to shoulder that burden and removes the feeling of certainty. Maybe this is how it ends.

Games also come with a unique disadvantage: gameplay. The fact is, there’s nothing inherently terrifying about interacting with a computer. No matter how effective the setting, you’re still interacting in an understandable, even comforting manner. Death loses the power to frighten when you consider something “a game”. You die dozens of times in Mario and manage to soldier on without wetting your pants. As a gamer, your inclination is to figure out what’s best and do it. Games, even bleak ones, still offer you this comforting goal. Kill the zombies, escape the city.

So how do we maximize the terror that comes from interactivity while minimizing the comfort factor? Focus less on scary settings and more on scary, unfamiliar gameplay elements. Failure needs to be more than a quick trip across the Styx. And yet, only a few games explore the idea of drawing terror out of gameplay.

The Void is a scary game not because of how difficult it is to survive, but because of how impossible it is to do right. What’s brilliant about Void  is instead of placing you in a comfortably deadly situation with simple goals, it threatens you with being unable to ever understand the world well enough to make things better. You watch as every decision you make ruins another corner of the world because you are simply unable to put a puzzle together correctly.

Eversion takes a different tack. The gameplay is simple sidescrolling. But it introduces slipping into different dimensions or “Everting” to solve puzzles. As you progress through the game, “Everting” takes you to more discomfiting places. It uses your drive to finish the game as a way of forcing you to open that creepy door to the basement, so to speak.

Games shouldn’t scare us by aping movies. They should scare us in ways that only they can, because they can do it better.

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