[Game: Shovel Knight, Yacht Club Games, 2014]
As From a Time Machine:

How Shovel Knight Embraces and then Rises Above its Capacity for Nostalgia

 

Introduction:

Yacht Club Games’ Shovel Knight is a game whose Kickstarter campaign‘s success may be attributable to, above other merits, nostalgia for the SNES era of games whose aesthetics and gameplay Shovel Knight promised to deliver. It’s a winning formula, and one on which many other projects have been happy to capitalize: sell the gaming population its own childhood.

Such projects, often full of wry nods toward and inside jokes from NES and SNES titles, wear the clothes of classics. They have pixel art as a matter of convention, and scrolling text as a matter of principle. But Shovel Knight is a special game, because it does not merely wear the clothes of the classics; it is a classic, every bit as deserving of acclaim and status as are the titles whose trappings got it funded.

Shovel Knight screenshot with NPC village - nostalgia - Yacht Club Games

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[Game: Shovel Knight, Yacht Club Games, 2014]
As From a Time Machine:

How Shovel Knight Embraces and then Rises Above its Capacity for Nostalgia

was last modified: January 2nd, 2020 by Daniel Podgorski

[Game: Spelunky, Mossmouth, 2012]
Platforming Perfection:

The Incredible Design and Even Better Execution of Mossmouth’s Spelunky

 

Introduction:

Derek Yu’s Spelunky first appeared as a freeware game in 2008, and it soon became a beloved piece of software for many gamers in the know (including acting as one of the two biggest influences on Edmund McMillen’s design for The Binding of Isaac). Yu then turned his attention (enlisting the help of Andy Hull under the Mossmouth heading) to a ground-up HD remake of Spelunky, and its release garnered a victory in the design category of 2012’s IGF, followed by PC Gamer naming Spelunky‘s Steam release their game of the year for 2013. That second accolade resulted in a lot of controversy, with gamers all over the internet commenting concerns about how a simple 2-D indie game could possibly beat all of 2013’s massive studio releases, with each franchise’s fans arguing their case.

If you know me well, you’ve already got a pretty good idea of what sort of remarks I made toward those negative reactions. Mostly, I wondered whether most of those commenters were merely judging the game by its cover art, as it were, and had not actually played the game. As it stands, I would not only concur that Spelunky was the best game released in 2013, but I would go yet further and say that Spelunky is one of the best games I have ever played. To explain why, I will now compare Spelunky to the original Super Mario Bros. games.

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[Game: Spelunky, Mossmouth, 2012]
Platforming Perfection:

The Incredible Design and Even Better Execution of Mossmouth’s Spelunky

was last modified: January 2nd, 2020 by Daniel Podgorski

[Game: Costume Quest, Double Fine Productions, 2010]
Masked by Charm:

On Double Fine’s Costume Quest, the Shallowest RPG I’ve Ever Played

 

Introduction:

Until now, you might have started to get the impression that I’ve never met a game I didn’t like. Every one of my ten game articles thus far (considering everything from the low-rated, humble Wizorb to the universally praised, grandiose Dead Space) have been positive reviews. You’ve learned a lot about what I like—innovative gameplay decisions that guide design, satisfyingly high difficulty, and aesthetics that meld with gameplay to produce a compelling atmosphere.

Now I would like to talk about a game which I would not recommend—to anyone: the original Costume Quest, a game made by Double Fine Productions and released five years ago. In another version of reality, I could have spent this week’s article talking about Double Fine’s wonderful game Psychonauts, a masterful 3-D platformer which would comfortably find a home in a list of my 30 or so favorite games of all time (perhaps I will one day write about Psychonauts). But it’s high-time I talked about a game that goes wrong, and there’s really no better place to start than with Costume Quest, which I maintain to be the shallowest RPG I have ever encountered.

Costume Quest screenshot with attack animation - bad RPG - Double Fine Productions Continue reading

[Game: Costume Quest, Double Fine Productions, 2010]
Masked by Charm:

On Double Fine’s Costume Quest, the Shallowest RPG I’ve Ever Played

was last modified: January 2nd, 2020 by Daniel Podgorski

[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 2nd, 2020 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, 2020 by Daniel Podgorski