Friday, October 30, 2015

Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs Sucks

Halloween is right around the corner, which means it's time for another disappointing horror game that couldn't possibly live up to my high standards nor rouse any ounce of emotion from my cold, blackened heart. This year, it's Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, a sequel of sorts to one of my favorite horror games of all time, Amnesia: The Dark Descent. In an appropriately horrifying twist, however, Frictional Games decided not to handle the sequel themselves, and instead handed the license to the team responsible for the torpidly bland Dear Esther. Now don't get me wrong, the retail release of Dear Esther is a solid artistic expression, but it features no meaningful gameplay whatsoever and left me beyond skeptical that the Chinese Room could pull off a successful Amnesia game.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Talos Principle: Probably Worth Playing

What is the difference between a robot and a human being? If you put a person's brain in a mechanical suit, is he or she still a person? What if you replaced the brain with a computer that performed all the necessary functions of the brain, while still retaining that person's memories and personality? What does it mean to be alive? What does it mean to be a person? At what point does the line between human and artificial intelligence begin to blur?

These are the types of questions that The Talos Principle -- a first-person puzzler by the team behind the Serious Sam series -- explores as the player assumes the role of a nameless robot going through testing chambers in a computer simulation. Guided by the voice of the God-like Elohim, you're instructed to visit all the worlds in his creation and complete each of his tasks so that you can achieve eternal life. All you must do is collect enough sigils hidden away in each chamber, and above all else, stay away from the tower. Do you take it on faith that he'll lead you down the road to eternal life, or do you get inquisitive and try to find out what exactly is at the top of the tower, and what is the real purpose of this world you're in?

The Talos Principle is often compared to Portal, and those comparisons are certainly valid in a general sense. Both games, after all, are first-person puzzlers that have you going through test chambers while a disembodied voice talks to you and everything may not actually be as it seems. The actual puzzle mechanisms are strikingly similar as well, with both games featuring weighted cubes that you place on pressure plates, force field doors, redirecting laser beams, and devices that catapult you (and objects) through the room, among others. If you liked either of the Portal games, then it's a safe bet that you'll probably enjoy The Talos Principle. In some ways, I'd say it's even better than Valve's lauded masterpiece(s), though as usual, I have some issues with it as well.