Month: September 2015

Let’s Play: Resident Evil HD

Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Video Game? Well, Jackson is, that’s for damn sure. But you can join him! He’s not played a horror game before, and he’s jumping in with the remake of Resident Evil, which has freaked him out so much that he doesn’t know why he’s writing so insistently in third person.

Please, enjoy this Let’s Play, I’m definitely suffering to make it, but I hope my suffering brings some pleasure on your behalf. I am a big baby, just waiting for a dog to jump out of a wall.

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Great Games: The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead

TWD gameDevelopers: TellTale Games
Platform: PC, iOS, Consoles
Release Year: 2012

Nobody expected The Walking Dead  to be good, let alone great. Telltale Games had made a name for themselves on Sam and Max, keeping the spirit of 90s Adventure Games alive with absurd comedy and item-combining puzzles. Yet The Walking Dead, the company’s 2012 flagship release, appeared to be not only lacking in their trademark humour, but by all accounts barely an adventure game. On top if this, it came out in 2012, at the peak of The Walking Dead’s cultural relevance and popularity. The games industry has a less than stellar track record when it comes to timely adaptations.

But while The Walking Dead could easily have taken the cheap and easy route, it instead chose to be one of the most honest and powerful adaptations in games. It begins as a more traditional adventure game with moments of impactful choice, taking cues from TellTale’s prior work, folding in dialogue and choice elements from Mass Effect and Heavy Rain. Yet throughout the course of the five episodes, the game evolves in front of you, shedding all unnecessary formal elements with each release, until an extraordinarily confident climax which lets go of difficult puzzles or world-changing choices entirely to hold itself up on emotional content alone.

That emotion is given such strength thanks to the game’s core humanity. The Walking Dead is an intensely empathetic and moral game, always managing to avoid stepping into nihlism despite the bleakness of its genre work. A character’s betrayal is treated as a desperate act by a human being still trying to do the right thing. A post-apocalypse society that purges the weak to maintain strength is immediately revealed as immediately and wholly irredeemable. The memorable moments in Lee and Clementine’s relationship are not those most shocking, but those most intimate.

And that is the great triumph of The Walking Dead, a runaway mainstream commercial success not in spite of, but because of its intimate construction. A game in which choice and consequence are used to neither empower or shock the player, but to add thematic richness for its own sake. A post-apocalyptic story which weaves values of empathy and and trust into its texture without indulging in easy provocation.

When the credits roll, it leaves you to consider the five traumatic episodes, the moments of overwhelming heartbreak and quiet triumph, and passes on its final moral. It’s impossible to stop the world from falling apart sometimes, but it’s always worth taking the time to try to build it back up, no matter how little time we may have.

Clementine will remember that.

Morning Mario: Super Mario Bros. 3

After a technologically enforced delay, Morning Mario has returned for all to enjoy once more! After spending many a week in the hell that was Super Mario Bros. 2, Jackson has emerged to tackle the far more approachable Super Mario Bros. 3! It controls like a Mario game, it behaves like a Mario game, it is something to be understood and, eventually, beaten.

But how quickly will it fall? How high will it raise its walls and how far will Jackson have to climb this time? Only as the days go by will we have our answer. Tune in every morning for the triumphant, ongoing return, of the Morning Mario!

Abnormal Mapping 36: The Othered Man in Hat

Framed05

A dark night in the bright city. Jackson dashes down an alleyway, a shadow looming behind him. He clutches the attache case close to his chest as he squeezes past a dumpster and into a space that would generously be described as snug for even the overfed cats that dine on the garbage nearby. Matthew’s close behind, reaching into the tiny space up to their elbow to reach after Jackson, unable to go any further. Growling, they climb up the dumpster, leaping onto the lowest rungs of the fire escape as they use the window to get into the hallway of the building Jackson is squeezing past. As they leap down the steps two at a time, they don’t see the slender cane extend between the bars of the railing until it’s too late, and their’s sprawled out on the cold tile floor of the foyer of the building.

Destiny emerges from behind the stairs, nudging Matthew’s arm aside with her cane as she steps outside, just to see Jackson emerge from the alleyway and stop to look behind him for pursuit. It’s a distraction he can ill afford. He doesn’t even feel the needle slip under his skin, he just feels himself sag against the wall as Destiny steps up beside him and removes the case from his now flaccid hands. “Thanks,” she says. “It’s game over for you, though.”

She turns to walk away, Jackson gasping trying to yell after her, his knees buckling as he falls back into the alleyway, and both of them disappear back into the bustle of the city.

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This Month’s Game Club: Framed

October’s Game Club: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

Games Discussed: The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Tomorrow Never Dies, Morning Mario Returns!, Civilization V, Three Beers Deep, our conversation with Lana Polansky, Framed, Hideo Kojima’s tweet, Angry Birds, Boom Blox, Doctor Who, Grim Fandango

Music This Episode
Blown Away by Kevin MacLeod
Baba Yetu by Christopher Tin
Framed Soundtrack by Adrian Moore
The Fragrance of Dark Coffee by Noriyuki Iwadare
Kapp’n’s Song by Shohei Tsuchiya

Top 10! Tony Hawk’s Games – Part One

Tony Hawk'sDo you know what this website has been missing? Lists! And it’s about time someone came in and fixed that, the someone specifically being me, who is writing this one now. For as besmirched as they so often are, I think lists are actually a really valuable form of writing, especially within accessible criticism. And since a big thing we’re trying to do with Abnormal Mapping is make it a website that can be enjoyed by those who don’t keep up with the ins and outs of games culture or writing, I’m gonna try to write lists on this website which serve as an entry point into critically considering a certain topic.

Today, we’re tackling the Tony Hawk’s games. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 is on the horizon, in what seems like the most half-hearted possible bid to make Tony Hawk relevant once more. It’s being positioned in a similar way that every Sonic game was between Sonic 06 and Sonic Generations, as a nostalgic return to form which caters to most people’s early experience with the series. As someone who played those games every year upon release for seven years, I think “it’s like the good ol’ ones!” is a really unfair way of approaching a series that has been far more varied and vibrant than that. It deserves a little more respect and a little bit of a closer look, which is what we’re going to give it today!

So join me, as I take you on a journey from worst to best, and we take a look at just what makes the Birdman good, what makes the Hawkman bad, and just why we should even care at all. I ended up writing a lot about these games, which won’t surprise anyone, so today we’re tackling the first five games in the list, and next time we’ll have the grand conclusion to the video game tale of Anthony Frank Hawk.

Take it away…
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The Abnormal Mapping Super Mario Maker Level Select

heelsHey, paisanos! If you’ve not been living under a rock, you know that the most magical of things has happened: Nintendo has released a new video game! This usual cause for celebration is heightened by it being a very unique game indeed. If you didn’t know, Super Mario Maker is a Mario level construction kit, allowing you to use all the disparate pieces of four eras of Mario game to make levels. Both Matthew and Jackson thought this was a pretty great idea, so away they went to see just how good at making stuff they actually were. The results are below, along with some thoughts about their Mario Maker design ideas more generally. (more…)