Video Games

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. 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 […]
Aug. 06, 2014 | 12:00 p.m.

‘Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor’ creators mine Tolkien lore for game

The Wraith, Celebrimbor, Talion in "Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor." (Warner Bros. Interactive)
Last month, filmmaker and J.R.R. Tolkien ambassador Peter Jackson made his final appearance at San Diego’s Comic-Con International to promote one of his feature film adaptations of the literary master’s work. But December’s “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” wasn’t the only project inspired by the imagined geography of Tolkien’s universe to make news at the pop culture expo. During the “Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor” panel, it was revealed that the Wraith, a character in the newest “Lord of the Rings” franchise video game, was actually Celebrimbor, the greatest Elven smith of the Second Age. He was deceived by Sauron into working with him to forge the Rings of Power, then murdered along with his family. His spirit was residing in Mordor, awaiting vengeance against the Dark Lord, when Talion, who was also murdered at the hands of […]
Aug. 02, 2014 | 7:00 a.m.

‘Kim Kardashian Hollywood’: Fame is the name of the game

"Kim Kardashian: Hollywood" is surprisingly progressive for a video game. (Glu Mobile)
THE PLAYER Whether we like it or not, when it comes to Kim Kardashian, we’re all, in a sense, amateur Kardiologists. We know about the reality show, the sex tape, the quickie marriage to an NBA star, Kanye West and the Kimya wedding. We’re told she’s a fashion designer, model, actress, socialite and blogger. We see she’s a wearer of bikinis. Still, why Kim Kardashian is famous is a mystery. “I do not know what she does,” Stephen Colbert joked on his Comedy Central show this week, echoing the thoughts of many of us. When someone’s primary expertise is omnipresence, the more we know, the less we actually learn. But we’re getting more insight from Kim’s latest and more unlikely role as a rather convincing video game character. “Kim Kardashian: Hollywood,” a free-to-play mobile game by the reality star, is […]
July 19, 2014 | 6:00 a.m.

Mobile games keep it simple and smart

The princess in 'Monument Valley' never says a word. (Ustwo)
THE PLAYER About a year ago, hip-hop’s enduring crank Eminem rapped what many interpreted as a jab at the increasing complexity of video games. “All these buttons,” Eminem scolded modern tech kingpins. “You expect me to sit here and learn that?” The man had a point. For those not yet converted to video games, the controller remains a potential barrier to entry, this even as the medium more regularly explores relatable topics. One may have been intrigued by the paternal existentialism at the core of last year’s survival horror game “The Last of Us” or curious about this year’s Chicago-set techno-thriller “Watch Dogs,” which explored the concept of hacking as a weapon, but the idea of learning a rules system before exploring a virtual world can be something of a language barrier. What a godsend then has been mobile and […]
July 17, 2014 | 6:00 a.m.

‘Guardians of the Galaxy: The Universal Weapon': Dan Abnett talks game

GuardiansGameFeatured
When Disney Interactive wanted to make sure Star-Lord and the gang seemed like themselves in “Guardians of the Galaxy: The Universal Weapon,” it got Dan Abnett. Few, if any, know more about the truly out there outer-space superteam: The prolific Englishman co-wrote the 2008-2010 comic book series that inspired the lineup found in the mobile game, out Thursday, and the upcoming Marvel cosmic adventure film, out Aug. 1 — as well as this spring’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Prelude” comics that tie in to the movie, and penned, on his own, the just-released novel “Rocket Raccoon and Groot: Steal the Universe.” Abnett worked with art director Yehudi Mercado on the game’s story line, advising on characters’ behavior and distinct voices. So how consistent are the roguish Star-Lord, assassin Gamora, rampaging Drax, well-armed critter Rocket and tree-like tough guy Groot across […]
July 12, 2014 | 6:00 a.m.

The balletic ‘Bounden’ is a pas de deux with Player 2

Players will dance while connected via a mobile phone in "Bounden." (Game Oven)
THE PLAYER I had only known Eline Muijres for a few minutes before our first dance, and it wasn’t long before I became scared our movements were going to lead to more physical contact than is likely appropriate for near-strangers. So I let go of her iPhone. Muijres is a producer on “Bounden,” a mobile game that aims to teach players ballet — or maybe just inspire them to get closer, awkwardly. Either result is a win. Most dance games, such as the popular “Dance Central” or “Just Dance” franchises, have players moving in front of the TV, working off a sweat solo or goofing off at a party. “Bounden” is far more intimate. And potentially more revealing. Developed by Netherlands-based three-person studio Game Oven in conjunction with the Dutch National Ballet, “Bounden’s” challenge — the difficulty of being in […]
July 07, 2014 | 2:17 p.m.

Anime Expo 2014: A chat with Fuminori Kizaki, director of ‘Bayonetta’

"Bayonetta: Bloody Fate." (Sega/Gonzo)
“Bayonetta” is well known among gamers and those who attended this past weekend’s Anime Expo, but the Japanese franchise doesn’t enjoy much mainstream popularity in the U.S. The action game-cum-movie could get a boost with the stateside release of the animated adaptation “Bayonetta: Bloody Fate,” due in October on Blu-ray/DVD. A mix of magic and gunplay, the feature-length film is based on the video game’s original story about a witch who awakens after a centuries-long sleep. Outfitted with magical hair and gun-boots, she tries to piece together her history while battling creatures of light and dark. The film originally debuted in Japan theaters in November 2013 and a few months later on Blu-ray/DVD. Fuminori Kizaki, director of “Bayonetta”and other anime favorites like “Afro Samurai: Resurrection” starring Samuel L. Jackson,  was happy to lend his vision to the film. “Originally, I was […]
July 05, 2014 | 6:30 a.m.

‘Valiant Hearts: The Great War’ upends the combat video game

"Valiant Hearts: The Great War" highlights the horrors faced by normal people in extraordinary circumstances. (Ubisoft)
THE PLAYER A tale of World War I, inspired partly by letters exchanged by soldiers and loved ones, “Valiant Hearts” is the rare video game in which military action evokes sympathy rather than aggression. Combat and the regrettable ways it touches the lives of a middle-aged farmer, a teenage student, a new father and an American widower make for the game’s backdrop. The emotional torture of warfare is the game’s center. Helping a bruised and battered soldier simply find a clean sock is treated as an act of heroism, and puzzles are fashioned out of the daily drudgery of a soldier’s life on the supply-barren Western Front. “Valiant Hearts” can wring great drama from the task of helping a lonely heart snare a feather from a bird so he can write a letter to his daughter. No, you cannot shoot […]
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