[Game: VVVVVV, Terry Cavanagh, 2010]
A Game with 1980s Cohesion:

The Compelling and Eery Retro Unity of Terry Cavanagh’s Relentless Platformer VVVVVV

 

VVVVVV screenshot 2 - Terry CavanaghTwo weeks ago, your Mid-week Mission was Super Crate Box, a simple, pixel art title carefully constructed around one innovative game mechanic. This week I would like to talk about a game with an even simpler art style, which is built around a less innovative mechanic—Terry Cavanagh’s VVVVVV. And yet, for all of the utter simplicity in its visuals and gameplay, this title manages to be one of the five best platformers I have played in the last five years, and one of my top ten platformers of all time.

VVVVVV is a game whose aesthetics leave everything to be desired, but which uses its sparse, sometimes-baffling visual presentation (in conjunction with Magnus Pålsson’s anachronistic chiptune-esque masterpiece of a score) to set an incomparably other-wordly mood plucked straight out of 1980s video game logic. Meanwhile, the deservedly lauded level design ties the project together for a respectably challenging campaign. For more on why and how this game looks so odd and plays so wonderfully, keep reading.

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[Game: VVVVVV, Terry Cavanagh, 2010]
A Game with 1980s Cohesion:

The Compelling and Eery Retro Unity of Terry Cavanagh’s Relentless Platformer VVVVVV

was last modified: January 21st, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski

[Game: Dead Space, Visceral Games, 2008]
AAA Horror that Works:

How the Original Dead Space Maintains a Tense Atmosphere

 

For those of you who didn’t have enough horror over the Halloween weekend, I recommend checking out a great game which just turned seven years old, Dead Space. I decided that Your Mid-week Mission series, which is now two months old, is long overdue for something besides a 2-D, pixel art, indie PC game (as much as I obviously enjoy those). So I’m getting about as far from that as possible with this article about a AAA action horror third-person shooter.

In particular, this article will explore what makes Dead Space succeed as a horror game, which is a genre with a disproportionate number of failures. I intend to encourage any fans of the horror or third-person shooter genres to play the first part of the Dead Space trilogy as soon as possible, so let’s get to why.

Dead Space screenshot - horror game - Visceral Games

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[Game: Dead Space, Visceral Games, 2008]
AAA Horror that Works:

How the Original Dead Space Maintains a Tense Atmosphere

was last modified: January 2nd, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski

[Game: Super Crate Box, Vlambeer, 2010]
Simple Arcade Innovation:

The Elegant, Ingenious Gameplay of Vlambeer’s Super Crate Box

Introduction:

In the first post of this series, I praised Tribute Games’ much-maligned Wizorb for being a high-quality recent example of a cheap, challenging, arcade-style game. This week I would like to recommend a game which you may not have heard of. It is also in the arcade style, but it is much more challenging and much more cheap. How can it be much more cheap than the $3 title Wizorb, you ask? In fact, this game is completely free. Not free-to-play or freemium, just plain old free. It goes by the name of Super Crate Box, and it is available on Steam right now in exchange for no money.

Super Crate Box is an arcade action game that pits your pixelated player-character against hordes of marching foes, but with one amazing gameplay twist, explained below. The game was developed by Vlambeer, a Dutch team which has risen to prominence in recent years with games like LUFTRAUSERS and Nuclear Throne. And like those later titles, Super Crate Box is a tremendous time-sink, a great challenge, and a lot of fun: now, on to discussing that interesting gameplay quirk.

Super Crate Box Screenshot 1 - Vlambeer

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[Game: Super Crate Box, Vlambeer, 2010]
Simple Arcade Innovation:

The Elegant, Ingenious Gameplay of Vlambeer’s Super Crate Box

was last modified: February 10th, 2017 by Daniel Podgorski

[Game: Awesomenauts, Ronimo Games, 2012]
Casual Competition and Awesome Addiction:

The Enduring Joy of Ronimo Games’ Awesomenauts

 

Introduction:

Just as I have done across the preceding month, I am following up last week’s more in-depth entry into this series (which, in this case, talked about the qualities of The Binding of Isaac which qualify it as a worthy successor to the original Legend of Zelda) with a light recommendation. The game which I would like to recommend this week is Ronimo’s 2012 side-scrolling platformer MOBA, Awesomenauts.

This game is a truly one-of-a-kind experience, whose indie team has carved out a consistent niche in the perennially monopolized MOBA genre. Anyone who is not impressed by Awesomenauts‘ sustained success has a very short memory. I can effortlessly think of a dozen or more multiplayer indie games I’ve liked and watched die for any number of reasons. But in the three years I’ve been playing Awesomenauts, I’ve never waited over five minutes for a full game of players. And it’s not even free-to-play. Allow me to explain what makes this title superior.

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[Game: Awesomenauts, Ronimo Games, 2012]
Casual Competition and Awesome Addiction:

The Enduring Joy of Ronimo Games’ Awesomenauts

was last modified: July 5th, 2017 by Daniel Podgorski

[Game: The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, Edmund McMillen/Nicalis, 2014]
Bound and Determined:

The Binding of Isaac as a Worthy Successor to the Original Legend of Zelda

 

Introduction:

Edmund McMillen Sketch by M.R.P. - The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth - The Legend of Zelda - Edmund McMillen

Caricature Sketch by M.R.P.
[High-res prints available here]

Since its original release as a subversive flash game way back in 2011, The Binding of Isaac has ascended from a cult classic to a mainstream success. In the time since that release, all of the elements which made it subversive, from its dark themes to its biblical allusions, have been covered and analyzed by critics from numerous angles.

Theories about the meaning of the game’s obscure, sparse narrative have ranged from wild ad hoc hypotheses about Isaac’s family history to carefully built cases tracing themes across several earlier games made by designer Edmund McMillen. Regardless, it has seemingly all been said (until the upcoming Rebirth expansion brings new evidence, at least).

I see that sort of analysis as highly valuable, and I find myself largely in agreement with commenters who interpret The Binding of Isaac as a portrait of a particular type of upbringing, with all of the entailed positive (i.e. creative and skeptical) and negative (i.e. repressed and threatened) effects. Acknowledging that as trodden ground, however, I would like to discuss an aspect of the game which is often gestured toward, but seldom discussed at length: how the roguelike gameplay lends itself to the game’s homage and spiritual succession of the earliest Legend of Zelda games.

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[Game: The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, Edmund McMillen/Nicalis, 2014]
Bound and Determined:

The Binding of Isaac as a Worthy Successor to the Original Legend of Zelda

was last modified: May 14th, 2019 by Daniel Podgorski