[Game: Defense Grid: The Awakening, Hidden Path Entertainment, 2008]
Towering Tower Defense:

In Praise of the Gameplay, Execution, and Aesthetics of Hidden Path’s Original Defense Grid

 

Defense Grid: The Awakening screenshot with mid-game challenge level - Hidden Path Entertainment - tower defense game

Introduction:

The topic of today’s article is a game which is roughly eight years old, and which resides in the curious genre of tower defense: Defense Grid: The Awakening. I call tower defense a curious genre because the formula of tower defense is a simple one, and yet one which is rather often poorly executed. For this article, I just want to talk about what that formula is, and how Hidden Path managed to impeccably nail it (in addition to doing other things right).

It is amazing to me that Defense Grid is almost a decade old now, as I first played it less than two years ago and, due in no small part to its economical aesthetics, the game still felt fresh and new. In short, it has aged incredibly well so far. Indeed, what is perhaps most striking is the fact that so very many tower defense games have been produced in the eight years since Defense Grid released, which by and large continue to make the same mistakes that Defense Grid so gracefully and thoroughly avoided.

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[Game: Defense Grid: The Awakening, Hidden Path Entertainment, 2008]
Towering Tower Defense:

In Praise of the Gameplay, Execution, and Aesthetics of Hidden Path’s Original Defense Grid

was last modified: July 11th, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski

[Game: prog.1, Vector Arcade, 2016]
Pithy Platforming:

On the Strong Visual Design, Strong Thematic Gameplay, and Light Content of prog.1

 

prog.1 screenshot with late-game level - Vector Arcade

Introduction:

Today I am writing about a somewhat unique take on a common indie gaming design trope: casting the player in the role of a computer program. It worked for A Virus Named Tom and it worked for Thomas Was Alone; but does it work for Vector Arcade’s new platformer prog.1?

I played through all 48 of prog.1‘s levels three times prior to writing this review (my reasons for doing so are available below as well), and I am ready to provide my assessment. The general form of my experience with the game is that I am mostly pleased with it. I enjoyed the gameplay, loved the visual design, and found the story energetic. But I also found the game light on content and had a number of minor nitpicks.

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[Game: prog.1, Vector Arcade, 2016]
Pithy Platforming:

On the Strong Visual Design, Strong Thematic Gameplay, and Light Content of prog.1

was last modified: June 25th, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski

[Game: Portal, Valve, 2007]
Thinking, with Portals:

Why Portal‘s Campaign is Superior to Portal 2‘s Campaign (in Tone and Design)

 

Introduction:

I think it’s fairly trivial to say that Portal is a significant and influential franchise, and that both titles in the series are excellent experiences well worth the time of any player. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the original Portal is such a cohesive and nearly flawless gaming experience that it should be remembered alongside such other towering encapsulations of solid game design and execution as Shadow of the Colossus, the original Half-Life, and (with an asterisk for its incomplete sections) the first entry of the Dark Souls trilogy.

But my praise for Portal 2, while still extensive and enthusiastic, is simply nowhere near as unmitigated or unending as my praise for Portal. In terms of its narrative, Portal 2 opted for a lighter tone, with a heavy emphasis on blatant comedy which marred the established atmosphere of Portal and the established character of GLaDOS. Meanwhile, in terms of gameplay, Portal 2‘s single-player campaign opted for easier puzzles overflowing with a large number of lightly utilized new mechanics.

Portal screenshot with companion cube incinerator - Why Portal is better than Portal 2 - Valve Continue reading

[Game: Portal, Valve, 2007]
Thinking, with Portals:

Why Portal‘s Campaign is Superior to Portal 2‘s Campaign (in Tone and Design)

was last modified: May 13th, 2017 by Daniel Podgorski

[Game: Transistor, Supergiant Games, 2014]
Red Pen:

On the Interestingly Deep yet Frustratingly Vague Plot of Supergiant Games’ Transistor

 

Introduction:

It would be boring for me to simply say that Supergiant Games’ Transistor is a gorgeous-looking, wonderfully designed, mechanically fun, and brilliantly soundtracked title, even though all of that is true. It would be slightly less boring for me to defend Transistor‘s much-maligned brevity in the same spirit as I have defended other cheap, brief indie campaigns, even though I clearly would be willing to defend it. But the least boring thing for me to do, I feel, is to discuss the one area of the game that I am inclined to critique: Transistor‘s presentation of its plot.

Supergiant Games has an attraction to endings. And not just to the ending of games, but to the ending of worlds. Each of their wildly successful indie titles, Bastion and Transistor, has presented a vividly imagined world right around the moment of its ultimate demise (the world of Pyre had better watch its back). And I’ve loved this aesthetic decision in both cases. But in both cases the series of events leading up to the end of the world (and so leading up to the start of the game) is not easily discerned—which, in the oft-dense RPG genre, is saying something.

Transistor screenshot with ordinary thoroughfare - analysis and criticism of Transistor's plot - story, narrative Continue reading

[Game: Transistor, Supergiant Games, 2014]
Red Pen:

On the Interestingly Deep yet Frustratingly Vague Plot of Supergiant Games’ Transistor

was last modified: May 9th, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski

[Game: The Sentient, Uncaged Studios, 2016]
Galactic Potential:

An Introduction to (and Cursory Assessment of) Uncaged Studios’ The Sentient

 

The Sentient screenshot with ship overview - Uncaged Studios - early access reviewAlright, this is going to be a relatively brief article that doesn’t go into too much detail, as the game in question, Uncaged Studios’ The Sentient, is very early in its early access career. But I wanted to write this preliminary review because I have been rather impressed by what I’ve seen so far. If I could sum it up in one sentence, I would say that The Sentient has accomplished more of the things promised by the developers of Pixel Piracy before entering early access than Pixel Piracy has managed to accomplish in the year since its full release.

As you can tell if you’ve read that earlier article linked above, I am no fan of Pixel Piracy; so why even bother with the comparison? Well, as much as I think Pixel Piracy is a clunky, buggy, superficial, bad-UI-ridden mess of a game, its premise is very strong: you take the exploration and RTS gameplay of FTL, and you add in deeper crew management and ship customization features. And this is exactly what The Sentient does, putting the player in control of a fleet of human scouting parties as they search the galaxy for the means to research, expand, and survive.

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[Game: The Sentient, Uncaged Studios, 2016]
Galactic Potential:

An Introduction to (and Cursory Assessment of) Uncaged Studios’ The Sentient

was last modified: March 17th, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski