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Lighthouse: The Dark Being Adventure category

Title screen from Lighthouse: The Dark Being

The company Sierra On-Line was once a titan of the adventure game genre. Though their style of extra-difficult, character-driven, third-person adventure stories eventually fell out of favor to the first-person, contemplative solitude of Myst, they took one shot at that new genre mode with Lighthouse: The Dark Being.

On its surface, Lighthouse reads like notes from a committee meeting that tried to nail down what made Myst successful. You visit a bizarre uncharted world where you solve complicated puzzles in a open-ended locales with complex mythology and lots of journals to read. Almost in spite of that copycat-ery, Lighthouse leaves its own touches on how that sort of game can fill its setting with risk and conflict. Its twisted world delights more than its components suggest.

UPDATE: Lead designer Jon Bock shares some insight into the unusual art direction and story for this self-described “science-fiction folk tale.” Lighthouse: The Dark Being » Read more

The Labyrinth of Time Adventure category

Title screen from The Labyrinth of Time

The bizarre and the mundane shine inseparably in The Labyrinth of Time, an adventure game by Terra Nova Development. Mainly the design of artist Bradley W. Schenck, the game throws mythology, retrofuturism, and art history together into an odd concoction that, rather than come out as a disparate mess, heightens the ordinary and grounds the imaginative. The titular labyrinth is a setting of enormous creativity bound into maze form. The Labyrinth of Time » Read more

Happy 15th, PlayStation! Blog categoryEssay categoryPlayStation category

Sony Computer Entertainment logo wearing a birthday party hat next to balloons

Hard to believe that fifteen years ago today, the original PlayStation was released in America. The PlayStation was one of those great water cooler moments for gaming, with a ubiquitous format that everyone played, shared, and experienced together. Childhood association and nostalgia surely play a role in the fond memories we have for these types of devices, but there certainly was a communal spirit to this magical disc machine. It offered something that other systems have never matched: an aura of mystery.

Starting with the advent of online modes and an oversaturation of high-profile media blitzes, game consoles started to lose a bit of allure and mystique that came from popping a game in. But the PlayStation was special. Maybe it was that cacophony of synths and humming bells that chimed up every time it booted, or the simultaneously inviting-and-foreboding PlayStation logo that would drop off into darkness before an opening cutscene cued.

>Whatever the source of its magic, the PlayStation just carried this transcendent air, that the games were somehow operating on a level above you, that the system was this untouchable device that could make dreams unfold. No matter how small and restricted a game would be, the world around it felt like it might expand infinitely in every direction, and somehow, some secret always seemed just on the verge of materializing.

Maybe the Nintendo 64 turned on faster, with cleaner graphics and better games. The crazy thing is that 15 years on, for all the outdated tech and emulators, putting in a PlayStation game is still a little foreboding, mysterious, and exciting. In an era where games are exposed by betas and previews months in advance, that’s irreplaceable.

The state of CD-ROMs, September 1991 Essay category

Stack of CD-ROMs

Denise Caruso, a writer for the 1990s trade journal Digital Media, uploaded an archive of the magazine’s articles. One particularly fascinating issue from September 1991 featured a few lengthy pieces about the CD-ROM, storage mediums, and the future of the “new breed of interactive developers” who used them. This is invaluable information that explains why developers made interactive movies and flocked to the new device and captures the early days of the format in microcosm. What follows is a summary of that information so you don’t have to comb through it. With, of course, added commentary and additional sources. The state of CD-ROMs, September 1991 » Read more

Duracell: Run the Bunny Other category

Title screen from Duracell: Run the Bunny

Duracell: Run the Bunny might be the only game that I legitimately cannot understand. Even the weirdest ones have an intelligible premise or plot. Take LSD, a PlayStation game about acid trips and bad dreams. Although there’s no clear goals or objectives, no matter how abstract it became, the game still had a straightforward idea that could be concisely summarized in a few sentences.

Not so with Run the Bunny. Need an example? You can enable sound effects or music.

UPDATE: New unsettling information about Run the Bunny, straight from the developer’s mouth. Duracell: Run the Bunny » Read more

The Journeyman Project Adventure category

Title screen from The Journeyman Project

Too many games look at the post-apocalyptic future. What comes after that? The Journeyman Project terrifically answers those bleak predictions with an upbeat one, where goodwill and a shared sense of purpose build past our darkest qualities.

Debuting earlier in the same year as first-person adventure trendsetter Myst, The Journeyman Project offers a more narrative take on the genre. Though it might emphasize inventive puzzles less than its contemporaries, the hopeful thematic strength of its setting helps its delicious sci-fi pulpiness grow into something whole and sublime. The Journeyman Project » Read more

Span-It! Board category

"About" screen from Span-It!

Rarely does a game’s title explain its entire premise. In Span-It!, there is a board. And you must span it.

Even with the hilariously simple premise, Span-It! contains enough options and tweaks to stretch out its worth and replay value. But they also reveal a few major strategic shortcomings that makes the single-player mode wear thin quickly. Span-It! » Read more

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