Friday, October 28, 2016

The Great PokeClone-Off Part 3: Combat

When you go to visit the Mona Lisa, you may notice they don’t react kindly towards your attempts at rotating the painting, plugging it into a wall charger or smooshing Poffins all over her face. As was explained to me by an unusually patient police officer, this is because the Mona Lisa is not a video game. Through rigorous abuse of the term “scientific method”, I’ve done some testing and confirmed that:

1. Some things are not video games.
2. Video games are different from other things.

I’m planning on writing my thesis on this one: 3. Video games are things you can play. And the first thing you think of when you hear the word play? Murder. So it’s high time we broke down the “playing a game” aspect of these video games, starting with the part where you physically harm others to become successful. These gameplay sections will be worth extra points, because horrific violence is inherently hilarious. Or because it’s a big part of the experience, if you’re feeling boring and accurate.

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Great PokeClone-Off Part 2: Audio

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, every other possible sexual orientation and all manner of living creatures on Earth (except sharks): Welcome back to The Great PokeClone-Off!

This week’s installment of The Great PokeClone-Off is brought to you by PokeMart Incorporated. Remember: Shop smart, shop PokeMart! (Guys that, uh…that line doesn’t work as well with the letter swapped out. Also, I don’t think our target demo will get the reference? That movie came out like 6 years before – okay okay I’ll stick to the script!)

Last time we explored a feast for the eyes by comparing game visuals. This time the meal is moving a few inches back on your cranium, because I’m serving up a feast for the ears. I’m assuming that’s where your ears are. If you have eyes on the side of your head you’ll have to go elsewhere, sharks.

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Great PokeClone-Off Part 1: Visuals

Several months ago, I visited a Gamestop with some friends. It was the first time I’d set foot in a physical game store in over a year. As digital markets like Steam rose in popularity, I cut down on corporeal visits. Soon I made the decision to buy nothing used if I could pay the actual creators, and a second nail flew into that coffin. Now I’m a post-college adult with a day job, several creative hobbies and a backlog of dozens upon dozens of games I already own. Brick and mortar outlets are so far off my radar that Gamestop could start doing trade-ins for human skulls and I wouldn’t notice. On top of that, I’d never visited this particular store. So while waiting for friends to inspect some trading cards, I did what any sensible person would do:

I stripped that whole store down to the god damn marrow.

The result was what I’d like to call The Discount Fifteen. 15 games purchased for 30 US dollars. I dug through mountainous drifts of sports games, shovelware and sports games again (there were a lot of sports games) to find the diamonds in the rough. Or more accurately, the gravel shaped like funny faces in the rough. The games I selected were not all good - though you’d be surprised what Gamestop will let sink to the bottom after an arbitrary amount of years. But even those not “good” were at least interesting, and the first I popped in a console was a game called Spectrobes: Beyond the Portals.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Super Paper Mario Part 4: Writing

Super Paper Mario is a game with flaws. Even the most ardent fans wouldn’t call the game perfect. But when complaints about it arise, there is a common response. There is one element of the game that supposedly makes up for everything else. From the moment you start writing a critique, you can see a vision flash in your mind’s eye, a person countless miles away with fingers poised above a keyboard. If you listen to the whispers on the wind, you can hear their call: writing!

When people complain about Super Paper Mario’s transformation into a platformer, you hear the call: writing! When people moan about Super Paper Mario’s removal of RPG elements, you hear the call: writing! When people whine about Super Paper Mario’s complete absence of difficulty, you hear the call: writing! When people trip over a discarded Super Paper Mario disc, you hear the call: writing! When you stub your toe and Super Paper Mario happens to be in the room, you hear the call: writing! When your dog urinates on the good rug and Super Paper Mario wasn’t in the room at the time but you were kind of half thinking about it in the back of your mind a minute or two before it happened, you hear the call: writing!

An exaggeration, but not as much as you’d think. In my experience, the common defense of the game is not to support the gameplay. The gameplay is dismissed as “good enough” and people gush about how great the writing is to make up for it. And though I can quibble on particulars, I agree. The writing is not some shining savior that absolves every other sin in the game, but it helps a lot. So it’s high time we dissected it, to see what it is that works so well for people.