Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Lilly Looking Through - Review

* Read this review as it originally appeared in the November 2013 issue of Adventure Lantern.

Lilly Looking Through is the creative effort of husband-and-wife team Steve and Jessica Hoogendyk of Geeta Games. As fans of adventure games like Myst, Ico, and Beyond Good & Evil, Steve and Jessica wanted to create an adventure game that could be enjoyed by all ages. A successful campaign on Kickstarter allowed them to see that goal through to fruition, leaving us with the wonderfully charming game that we have today. With much of the game's development inspired by their daughters, you can tell that Lilly Looking Through was a true labor of love.

Lilly Looking Through takes the form of a point-and-click adventure game following the young protagonist, Lilly, as she attempts to catch up to her younger brother, Row, after he's whisked away by a red scarf-like fabric in the wind. The world in which these two siblings inhabit seems to be relatively primitive; the opening scene features round, wooden cottages along a lakeside buried deep in the woods with gas-powered lanterns illuminating wooden walkways. As Lilly ventures forth in search of Row, we're treated to imagery of run-down, abandoned bits of technology, seeming to suggest that this world has regressed to a simpler time after experiencing an era of prosperity and technological growth.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Red Dead Redemption is Not That Great

I remember walking into a GameStop in the spring of 2010, intending to browse through their collection of old PS2 games in search of rare gems. When one of the employees saw me reading the back of the box for Gun, a western-themed shooter, he immediately launched into a sales pitch on Red Dead Redemption, Rockstar's latest western-themed sandbox game. I told him I wasn't interested, and even after explaining that I didn't even own a PS3 or Xbox 360, he continued on his rant, hyping up all its minigames and trying to get me to pre-order it.

A few months later, Red Dead Redemption was released to immense critical acclaim and went on to win numerous "Game of the Year" awards. It's currently the sixth and seventh-highest rated game on PS3 and Xbox 360, respectively. At the time, the allure of a western-themed sandbox game with tight action, tons of content, a great story, and a complex morality system was certainly very strong and had me seriously considering buying one of the consoles to be able to play RDR (among other console exclusives).

Three years later, I've finally played Red Dead Redemption, and as seems to be the case with nearly every critically-hyped mainstream game, I wasn't very impressed with it. Sure, RDR is a decently enjoyable experience with some good qualities in its favor, but it came far short of living up to its grand hype. The introductory area and missions were all quite good and really drew me into its world and atmosphere, but after a while the gameplay grew stale, boring, and tedious, while certain aspects of its overall design proved downright disappointing or outright frustrating.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Narrating The New Stanley Parable, 2013 Edition

What can I say about Galactic Cafe's retail release of The Stanley Parable that I haven't already said in my previous article on its original, free source mod? The problem now, as it was then, is that any kind of description of what The Stanley Parable is, or why it's absolutely worth playing, would spoil its mystique and ruin many of the pleasant surprises in store for gamers unfamiliar with its premise. So the best I can do is attempt to describe its setup as basically as possible, and to describe its allure as vaguely as possible.

The Stanley Parable is a first-person adventure game of sorts, albeit one far from the typical adventure game formula. The Stanley Parable fits in with the crowd of games originally popularized by Dear Esther, wherein you simply walk around a setting and experience an unfolding narrative. Where TSP distinguishes itself from the crowd is the way it embraces freedom of choice and player agency; whereas games like Dear Esther force a rigid storyline upon you, TSP allows you to explore off the beaten path and shape its very course, all in terms of how you choose to react to the narrator.

You play as a man named Stanley, a droning office worker whose job is to sit at a computer terminal pressing buttons on a keyboard as commands stream in through the monitor. Stanley relishes this job and feels contentedly satisfied with life pointlessly typing away at the string of commands. But one day, the commands stopped coming in, and Stanley faces a choice: does he get up to investigate, or does he stay at his post and wait for the problem to solve itself?