Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is Manipulative and Perfect

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I played Brothers: A Tale of Two sons over a month ago. I sat down on a Saturday afternoon, looking for a break helping my kids cram a month’s worth of science project research into a single weekend. I had no clue what kind of experience I was in for. I thought it was just a cutesy game about two brothers, which you control simultaneously, where you spent a few hours overcoming obstacles, got a happy ending, and then forgot about the game forever.

About three hours later I sat, dumbfounded, as the credits rolled. I don’t know precisely how to frame what this game is, but I do know there is no other game of any kind or length that had me from the word go and wouldn’t release me until it was finished with me rather than I with it. Forgettable it is not.

The question becomes how to describe what makes it so unique and so special. The game, at its core, is horribly manipulative. It’s also heartfelt and full of wonder and sad and note perfect. I’ve put this post off for weeks on end because I simply do not know how to write about it. I don’t know how to do justice to what Starbreeze Studios has concocted.

After the break, I take my best shot in a deeper, rather spoilery dive…

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No High Scores’ Titanfall Coverage HERE!

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Oh boy, unless you live in South Africa or made the wise decision to not purchase the Microsoft Xbox One Cable TV Reciever and Political Advertisement Delivery Device, the much-ballyhooed TITANFALL arrives tomorrow!  It is sure to be the beginning of at least three years of a glorious run before the servers shut down and the game is no longer playable since it’s a mulitplayer only, online online title. You may have noticed that here at NHS we haven’t written about it. The reason for this is threefold: 1)I don’t think any of us have an Xbox One 2) I don’t think any of us really care and 3) you can read piles of articles about TITANFALL over at Electronic Arts’ marketing site, IGN.com. But we’ve got to keep up with the teenybopper video game blogs to look legit,  so I thought I would step up to make sure that NHS has at least one article about this system-selling sure-to-be blockbuster. So here’s a screenshot of Iron Soldier for the Atari Jaguar.

Jumping the Shark Podcast #203

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Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This week on JtS, Brandon and I swap crime stories. Brandon takes to the world of Thief and comes away unimpressed with its nefarious arts. Meanwhile, upon logging into my Blizzard account, I find out why crime doesn’t pay, even though I haven’t touched it in a year or so. Along the way we spend time discussing Bravely Default and other 3DS JRPGs, reminiscing about Harold Ramis, and learning about why WiFi and Bluetooth hate each other. (Spoiler warning, Blizzard did grant me my Diablo 3 access back the day after we recorded.)

Enjoy!

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Cracked LCD- Navajo Wars in Review

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Joel Toppen’s Navajo Wars: A History of the American Southwest, 1598-1864 is the story of the slow-motion apocalypse of a people. The game is, as you might guess from the title, about the Navajo (Dine) people of the American Southwest and their struggle to maintain their families, culture and ways of life in the face of Spanish, Mexican and American encroachment. Long before Kit Carson comes onto the scene during the Civil War to rope the Navajo onto a reservation, it’s clear that this is not a battle the Dine are going to win. This is, quite wilfully, a game about the twilight of these people and your success in guiding their fate is measured by a degree of inevitable failure. The game has much in common with other card-driven wargames in that specific historical beats, personalities and turns of events are unavoidable and your ability to anticipate and mitigate the script of history is critical. But it doesn’t really play like anything descended from We The People.

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Space Alert Review

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The world of board games is a largely cerebral one, even at the thinnest end. For most games, physical appreciation begins and ends with the tactile nature of the pieces. But just occasionally, you’ll find a game that breaks out of your head and into your body. The first one I discovered was Labyrinth, which made me feel queasy as I planned massive terrorist outrages across the globe. Space Alert is the second. Space Alert gave me indigestion.

After playing nonstop for several hours – a large number of games since most last only 20-20 minutes, I lay in my bed and failed miserably to sleep as stress and adrenaline coursed through my nerves and acid ate away at my intestine. I wasn’t sure if what I’d just experienced was fun or not, but it was certainly powerful, and utterly unique.

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Cracked LCD: Theseus: The Dark Orbit in Review

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When I first played Michal Oracz’s Theseus: The Dark Project I scrambled for references to try to quantify the experience.  I attempted to draw some kind of tenuous connection to Mr. Oracz’s previous success, a little game known as Neuroshima Hex. But that failed, apart from the fact that both are highly abstract, tactical games. I tried to parse how a game that I thought was going to be some kind of Space Hulk thing turned out to be so strange,  with unusually restrictive rules and often inflexible gameplay yet with an ample sense of theme and setting. The mechanics were from out of nowhere- I couldn’t draw a sensible lineage to anything other than Manacala, of all things. My initial reaction is best summed up as “what in the hell was that?”

And that, readers, is an awesome feeling.

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Jumping the Shark Podcast #202

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Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Brandon and I hopped online last week, talked about industry events, and now it’s live on Teh Internets as JtS #202. First, blame me for the audio problems during the first half of the show. Some technical issues on my end meant having to use my home WiFi rather than a wired connection and my WiFi is, at the moment, jacked. Consequently, I wasn’t coming up clear on Brandon’s line and I messed up the recording on my end, so it starts out rough. Gets better by the half-way point, though, and I’ll get it all sorted before we do the next show. Sorry!

Right, anyway, this week we talk all about digital distribution in a time where ISPs are feeling more and more freedom to throttle, engage in data caps, etc. This leads to a thorough look at the Irrational Studios closure/status quo change and how, er… irrational some of the response has been to it. Enjoy!

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Democracy 3 Review

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Everybody Wants to Rule the World, according to a well-known song from a band hailing from my home town. Well now you can experience ruling a small part of it, at least, with Democracy 3.

The new game screen gives you a choice of western nations to choose from, but it’s deceptive: your pick has very little impact on the game. Curiously for a game with this title, the actual different models of democracy like first past the post and proportional representation aren’t modeled at all. Rather, this is a game about the act of governance itself, of raising and spending revenue for the good (or otherwise) of your citizens.

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Cracked LCD- Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy in Review

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In case you haven’t noticed, Polish publishers Portal have been doing some pretty interesting board games over the past several years, reaching back to the widely beloved Neuroshima Hex on through last year’s smash Robinson Crusoe. For the next two weeks, I’ll be taking a look at two of their most recent issues. First up is Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy, a worker placement game with a surprisingly compelling thematic conceit. Continue Reading…

Steel Diver: Sub Wars in Review

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Nintendo’s new Steel Diver: Sub Wars, a freemium 3DS release, is one of the best and most unique games I’ve played in a while. In contrast to the original Steel Diver, which was a quiet, molasses-slow 2D vehicle shooter, the new game is a quiet, molasses-slow 3D vehicle shooter. There are a smattering of single-player, objective based missions with multiple difficulties and medals for performance but  the four-on-four team multiplayer submarine battles are the main attraction. Don’t think this is another deathmatch. This game doesn’t care about how fast your twitch reflexes are and there’s not a thousand variations of a machine gun to put in your loadout and there are no killperks or whatever to choose from. What this game prioritizes are patience, suspense, nerve and sheer cunning. Continue Reading…

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