Dec. 19, 2014 | 9:00 a.m.
THE PLAYER New faces dominated interactive entertainment in 2014, from a tiny princess adrift in a puzzling kingdom to a Native American lost in the Alaskan arctic. Those looking for something familiar, take heart, an Italian plumber still had a role in one of the best games of the past 12 months. Here’s a look back. “Monument Valley” (Ustwo). Miniature kingdoms — some in the sky, some in meadows, some in black holes — toy with our perception as we guide a princess through forgotten lands. Each tap of the screen reveals an unexpected perspective, all of them suitable for framing. “Framed” (Love Shack). A comic book sprung to life; panels can be slid and rotated to drastically change the action. This is an uniquely mobile experience and one that has the player acting like the director of an animated […]
Dec. 12, 2014 | 4:52 p.m.
THE PLAYER My relationship with Nintendo is maybe not as healthy as it should be. This realization comes to me as the year draws to a close, when one is pressed to discuss the most innovative or thoughtful interactive experiences of the year. Games such as the haunting “The Vanishing of Ethan Carter” or the whimsically lonely “Broken Age: Act 1” are some that immediately spring to mind. These are titles that made the same sort of lasting impression as a TV season of “Orphan Black” or a movie screening of “Big Hero 6,” which was full of unexpected considerations on loss. Like the getting-by struggles at the heart of hip-hop act Run the Jewels, these are all examples of pop culture with layers, where revisiting is encouraged. Yet there is one Wii U game in heavy rotation that I […]
Dec. 10, 2014 | 4:58 a.m.
THE PLAYER The young, college-age man meant to praise Telltale Games’ emotionally wrenching take on “The Walking Dead” during a Q&A session Saturday night at the first-ever PlayStation Experience, a fan convention in Las Vegas largely dedicated to hyping mainstream and indie titles due out for Sony’s game platforms. “I was crying like a little girl,” he said, admiring the game’s effectiveness in one particularly difficult-to-stomach scene. An audible gasp shot through the room and a woman in the audience immediately spoke up.“I didn’t cry,” she yelled. Melissa Hutchison, the voice actress whose character was responsible for the tears, was next to chime in. “I cried like a grown woman,” she said, inspiring cheers from the crowd. If one is going to speak at a video game event in 2014, it’s best to first carefully consider the remark. As the […]
Dec. 06, 2014 | 9:03 a.m.
THE PLAYER Compared to galas honoring film, television and music, awards saluting the video game industry are a more casual, T-shirt-and-jeans affair. One should also come prepared to watch plenty of clips full of splattered blood and splintered bodies. Yet even a young and relaxed medium has heritage acts, and it was industry legends Mario and Link (the latter the hero of “The Legend of Zelda”), who were called upon to open and close this year’s Game Awards in Las Vegas. The classic characters anchored a broadcast in which venerable video game studio Nintendo stole the spotlight from more powerful, more violent competitors. That is, if one is judging The Game Awards by the trophies awarded. During the three-hour event, which was shown online and on each major home video game console, previews for upcoming games appeared more celebrated than the games released in the […]
Dec. 05, 2014 | 8:58 a.m.
Ho, Ho, Ho(dor)! It’s the time of year for geek-friendly holiday shopping. Whether you’re shopping for fans of “Game of Thrones,” “Star Wars,” Batman or Captain Marvel, the annual Hero Complex holiday gift guide has you covered. This year’s selections include some family-friendly video games for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Wii U; gorgeous hardcover books celebrating the anniversaries of Marvel Comics, Batman, the Teen Titans, “Alien” and Hello Kitty; a Godzilla toy that’s probably bigger than your dog; and a quadcopter camera drone, among other selections. Click through the gallery above for a peek at our selections. Items are listed below, sorted by cost. Under $25 “Living Language Dothraki,” $3.99 app, $19.99 audiobook, $30 online course: Athchomar chomakaan! The Khal or Khaleesi in your life must command the Dothraki language before commanding the troops, and thanks to Living Language’s new course (offered as an app, CD and guide […]
Nov. 29, 2014 | 6:00 a.m.
THE PLAYER Alan Gershenfeld was already skeptical that this January 2012 trip to Alaska would yield a video game. The blizzard wasn’t helping. But his business partner, Michael Angst, was insistent. “[He] said, ‘We have to go! I’ve been to 49 states but not Alaska.’” For the Alaskans awaiting Gershenfeld’s arrival, this two-day business adventure carried much more weight than whether a video game executive completed a travel bucket list. The Cook Inlet Tribal Council, an Anchorage-based nonprofit supporting eight tribes in the region, wanted to launch a for-profit arm. The goal? Make money and be less dependent upon government assistance. The big plan? At one point it was funeral homes. This month it was a video game. “They were looking at a lot of businesses — real estate, resource extraction — but they wanted something that could empower their […]
Nov. 22, 2014 | 6:00 a.m.
THE PLAYER One of the first things you hear in Ryan Green’s video game is a voice mail. Though it’s not a horror game, the sound isn’t just frightening; it’s borderline bone-chilling. A woman leaving a message for her husband sounds exasperated. She’s leaving the doctor’s office and coming home without any answers. The couple’s baby boy is vomiting. Maybe it’s this? Maybe it’s that? There is no diagnosis. And why is the child’s head always cocked to one side? Everyone is thinking the worst, but no one is saying it. At this point the player can see a glimpse of the boy, whose name is Joel. The voice mail, it turns out, was a memory, and Joel, now older, is on a slide in a park. He’s almost 5. His older brother wants to know why he doesn’t talk. […]
Nov. 15, 2014 | 6:00 a.m.
THE PLAYER The long-standing Mad magazine comic strip “Spy vs. Spy” is occasionally like a puzzle — a short back-and-forth that asks the reader to piece together images to see which spy has the upper hand. If it were a film, the cuts would be fast and the swapping of one frame for another would change the entire outcome. Now imagine dragging the frames around the page. Instead of resulting in one’s demise, the larger-than-life hammer or roped-together dynamite could set off a brief tale of revenge. Or we could call a truce. Perhaps we could rewrite the end of the narrative to reveal a twist. Maybe the two spies had been played as pawns in a larger scheme all along. If you get rid of the Looney Tunes-like imagery and turn all that into a game, the result would […]
Nov. 08, 2014 | 6:00 a.m.
THE PLAYER There are first loves, which are important, yes, and then there are first pets. “A Bird Story” documents the mysterious emotional grip of the latter, tracing the connection between a humble winged critter and the little boy who dreams of joining his pal in flight. The power of imagination, as well as a little ingenuity when it comes to crafting the perfect larger-than-life paper airplane, goes a long way toward forging the relationship in this heartwarming tale, one that just so happens to be completely wordless and textless. While “A Bird Story,” released Friday, is unquestionably a video game, complete with a nostalgia-stirring look, it isn’t out of line to think of it more as an animated short — the interactive equivalent to, say, Disney’s “Paperman” or “Feast,” the ode to man’s best friend that opened this weekend […]
Nov. 07, 2014 | 5:25 a.m.
“Assassin’s Creed: Unity” gets a way-off-Broadway treatment with Machinima Prime’s “Assassin’s Creed: The Musical,” a three-song musical-theater experience that stars real talent from the Great White Way. Professionals including Matt Caplan (“Rent,” the recent revival of “South Pacific,” “Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark,” “High Fidelity”), Jonah Platt (“Hair” at Hollywood Bowl, “Bare”), Ben Palacios (“SPANK!” national tour) and Jaquita Ta’le (from the hip-hop/R&B/reggae group Nola Darling) are featured in the production alongside the hosts of Machinima Inside Gaming, Bruce Greene and Eliot Dewberry. A sequel to 2013’s “Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag,” “Assassin’s Creed: Unity” is set during the French Revolution and follows nobleman Arno Dorian, who joins the Assassins to investigate the murder of his adoptive father. The musical, though, features characters from past games including Altair, Ezio, Connor, Edward, Aveline, even Desmond Miles. The video is directed by […]