Games


Oct. 04, 2014 | 6:00 a.m.

‘Alien: Isolation’ review: Ripley’s daughter plays solitary to the hilt

Players control Amanda Ripley in "Alien: Isolation." (Creative Assembly / Sega)
THE PLAYER Though she’s long considered one of the great cinematic heroes, Ellen Ripley has generally been a forgettable one when it comes to video games. Steely in her beliefs yet unafraid to show emotion and a friend to felines, the character made famous by Sigourney Weaver in the “Alien” films possesses as much thoughtfulness as action-star bullheadedness. It’s a combustible cocktail of very human emotional traits that until recently were not easily translated into action video games. But is it any wonder the video game industry has struggled to turn “Alien,” especially the 1979 sci-fi horror film of the same name from Ridley Scott, into a notable game? After all, it’s a story in which firing a gun at the enemy, one that bleeds corrosive acid, is essentially suicide. So guns, the favored weapon for nearly all interactive heroes, […]
Sept. 27, 2014 | 6:00 a.m.

‘Smarter Than You’ is a battle of wits, arrows, swords and lies

A look at the animation and rules of mobile game "Smarter Than You." (EightyEight Games)
THE PLAYER The very name of the game is like a glove slapped across the face. “Smarter Than You,” released this week for Apple’s mobile devices, is a taunt and a challenge. Bold words for a game that, on the surface, is essentially a virtual match of rock-paper-scissors. And yet “Smarter Than You,” a free game with a minimalistic presentation that asks little of its players, manages to carve its way into a rather complex psychological head space. That’s because it’s partly a game about the little ways in which we casually lie — to strangers, friends and loved ones. So maybe, depending on your level of cynicism, “Smarter Than You” is also a game about the ways in which we communicate. “You don’t have to tell the truth,” the game tells us in its opening tutorial, spelling out what […]
Sept. 13, 2014 | 6:00 a.m.

‘Destiny’ review: Mars is lovely; too bad about the war

Spaceflight over Mars in "Destiny." (Bungie / Activision)
THE PLAYER The opening moments of “Destiny” are mesmerizing. It’s a Mars landing, complete with sparkling views of our galaxy and crystallized red space dust. It’s a vision that looks lifted straight from photographs sent in by NASA’s Curiosity rover. It’s immediately inviting — optimistic, even. This is “present day” Mars, the game tells us, and considering that manned spaceflight isn’t a top legislative priority anymore, watching an astronaut leave a footprint on the surface of Mars is a reminder that a venture into the unknown can be downright inspiring. Then out come the rifles. What’s the fun, apparently, in looking for life on Mars if we can’t kill it? For all the innovation and sci-fi-meets-fantasy overtures here, “Destiny” ultimately doesn’t feel all that futuristic. It’s a refinement, rather than a reinvention, of the dominant video game genre on home […]
Sept. 08, 2014 | 4:46 p.m.

‘Batman: Arkham Knight’ set for release in June 2015

It’s official: “Batman: Arkham Knight” has a release date — the game will become available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC on June 2, 2015. Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and DC Entertainment announced the new date Tuesday. The follow-up to 2009′s “Arkham Asylum” and 2011′s “Arkham City,” “Arkham Knight” is set one year after the conclusion of “Arkham City” and will offer players a chance to lead the Dark Knight on a mission through Gotham and take on the Scarecrow, who has united with a familiar crew of rogue’s gallery regulars. The game, developed by London’s Rocksteady Studios, will be released with two collector’s editions: “Batman: Arkham Knight” Limited Edition, and “Batman: Arkham Knight” Batmobile Edition. Both versions come with an art book featuring concept art from the game, a comic book, character skins from DC Comics and a statue of […]
Sept. 06, 2014 | 5:00 a.m.

Gamergate-related controversy reveals ugly side of gaming community

Noted pop culture critic Anita Sarkeesian has been the target of online harassment. Above, a screengrab of one of her video critiques of the game industry on site Feminist Frequency. (http://www.feministfrequency.com/)
THE PLAYER This column is usually dedicated to discussing video games, but in the past week and a half, you’d be forgiven for not having the stomach to play one. I haven’t. Infighting, finger-pointing and the airing of dirty laundry have dominated the late summer in video games. For those who have played an online multiplayer game, this may sound like any other day in video games. But it’s not. Now the attacks are so threatening in nature that even the FBI has taken notice. A long-simmering schism among select, very vocal members of the gaming community and others in the industry has come to the fore over the last two weeks, resulting in unprecedented levels of death threats and harassment directed at game designers and writers — many of them women. This is not, to be clear, some trash-talking […]
Aug. 30, 2014 | 7:00 a.m.

’80 Days’: Jules Verne-inspired game brings a more global perspective

Travel by land, by sea and even mechanical horse in mobile adventure "80 Days/" (Inkle)
THE PLAYER Back in grade school, I proposed doing a book report on “Gold Rush!” — a computer game first released in the late ’80s. My teacher thought I was trying to pull a fast one. Yet the truth of the matter is “Gold Rush!” contained more text and actual history than the heavily illustrated dinosaur book I chose instead. But the dinosaur sketches were encased in binding. “Gold Rush!” had disks. There was a day when the most popular games were essentially interactive novels — point, click, read and type. That day was killed by the first-person shooter, which ushered in an era during which the most dominant of games were competitive and reflex-based. But there’s good news for those who believe a written sentence is more powerful than digital bullets or the ability for players to hijack a […]
Aug. 23, 2014 | 6:00 a.m.

‘Hohokum’: All the braver for ignoring gaming conventions

The emphasis is on exploration in "Hohokum." (Honeyslug / Sony Santa Monica)
THE PLAYER Deep within dating site OkCupid, there’s a question that treats video games as child’s play. “Would you be willing to date someone who plays video games almost every day, for at least 2 hours?” Two hours may seem excessive for our time-crunched lives, but there’s an underlying implication that the above activity is perhaps a bit weird — a potential red flag about anyone otherwise considered a full-fledged adult. Although the video game industry doesn’t do itself any favors, what with tolerating the boorish behavior of its online communities and relying on games that emphasize gun play, there’s no denying that this is a mainstream medium that still carries a stigma. But the OkCupid question did hit a chord. There are times when even I feel embarrassed about my accruing games knowledge. It’s the moment, for instance, when […]
Aug. 16, 2014 | 6:00 a.m.

‘Road Not Taken’: Ranger’s life is hard, but you’ll connect on journey

Rescue lost children by throwing and combining items in "Road Not Taken." (Spry Fox)
THE PLAYER “You’re not too old for those?” she asked. The question came from a date who arched her head and squinted at an assortment of Batman-branded pillowcases in my bedroom. Those six words hovered on the forefront of my mind, forcing me to suddenly call into question every aspect of my life and how it reflected my level of maturity (or immaturity). Adulthood, and how it weighs on us, has been an obsession of late. It’s at the core of Spry Fox’s “Road Not Taken,” a vexing puzzle game with magical overtones released this month for home computers and the PlayStation 4.The questions it raises linger long after a play session. The game has a message: You’re not getting any younger. Or maybe it’s saying you’re running out of time. This is the emotional head space occupied by “Road […]
Aug. 14, 2014 | 12:03 p.m.

‘Spiderwick’ creator Tony DiTerlizzi returns to RPG days for ‘Realms’

Card illustration from Magic: The Gathering game by Tony DiTerlizzi. (Tony DiTerlizzi)
Children’s book author and artist Tony DiTerlizzi hit the jackpot with his first paid job out of art school: He got a one-way ticket to the world of Dungeons & Dragons. Though his career has taken him to places far beyond the worlds of role-playing games, DiTerlizzi’s heart has remained with those monsters and heroes. And now he’s returning again for “Realms: The Roleplaying Game Art of Tony DiTerlizzi,” a hardcover collection of his early work from Dark Horse Comics and Kitchen Sink Books coming in June 2015. Years before DiTerlizzi was known as the co-creator of “The Spiderwick Chronicles” or the “WondLa” books, he was an artist fresh out of the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale who loved playing Dungeons & Dragons and needed a gig. On a lark, he sent a portfolio of monster drawings to TSR, the […]
Aug. 12, 2014 | 4:59 p.m.

Guillermo del Toro, Hideo Kojima team up for new ‘Silent Hill’ game

Silent Hills
Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro and “Metal Gear Solid” creator Hideo Kojima will join forces for a return trip to Silent Hill. Word about the new installment in the long-running video game series arrived Tuesday via an interactive teaser released on the PlayStation store. Near the conclusion of an hour-plus long demo for a game referred to as “P.T.,” title cards appeared on screen featuring both Del Toro’s name and Kojima’s (another suggested the game could be titled “Silent Hills”). Also glimpsed was a character modeled on “The Walking Dead” star Norman Reedus, who could be seen standing on a desolate city street at night. Although some years away from its creative zenith, the “Silent Hill” franchise won a legion of fans for its atmospheric thrills and surreal imagery. It spawned two films — 2006′s “Silent Hill,”and more recently, 2012′s “Silent […]
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