Video Games

Dec. 10, 2014 | 4:58 a.m.

PlayStation Experience shows soul-searching among gamer culture

Hayden Panettiere stars in "Until Dawn," an interactive horror drama.  (Supermassive Games)
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 Game Awards: Nintendo steals spotlight at lighthearted gala

Nintendo's Wii U take on "The Legend of Zelda" is due in 2015. (Nintendo)
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.

Holiday gift guide: ‘Hobbit,’ Batman, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy,’ more

Hero Complex Holiday Gift Guide 2014
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.

‘Never Alone’ game smartly explores Alaska native tribal lore

Players will explore Native American heritage in "Never Alone," which stars a young girl and a fox. (Upper One Games/E-Line Media)
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.

‘That Dragon, Cancer’ brings a serious real-life ordeal to gaming

"That Dragon, Cancer" brings a little magic to a serious topic. (Ryan Green & Josh Larson)
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. 08, 2014 | 6:00 a.m.

‘A Bird Story’ plays with loneliness of pet ownership

A boy's attachment to a pet is explored in the narrative adventure "A Bird Story," out now for home computers. (Freebird Games)
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': Theater and gaming collide in musical mashup

assassins-creed
“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 […]
Nov. 01, 2014 | 6:00 a.m.

‘The Vanishing of Ethan Carter,’ a haunting magical game

"The Vanishing of Ethan Carter" is a patient, challenging horror story. (The Astronauts)
THE PLAYER “The Vanishing of Ethan Carter” is a ghost story. Or maybe it’s a game about the mind’s powerful ability to fool itself. In both execution and play, however, it’s a tale about what’s missing. It’s a search for a boy, one whose family appears to have a mysterious and murderous history, and it unravels with a patience and exploratory nature that will challenge players and test the narrative conventions of gaming. With traces of pulpish sci-fi and hints of hard-boiled noir, “The Vanishing of Ethan Carter” makes clever use of the interactive medium. There is no designated order to the game; its puzzles are random and need to be stumbled upon. Players are set free, dropped in a gorgeous, photorealistic world and told essentially nothing. They are, in fact, given a warning. “Ethan Carter” states at its outset […]
Oct. 30, 2014 | 4:00 a.m.

‘Sunset Overdrive’ delivers madness with an apocalyptic message

The apocalypse is a party in "Sunset Overdrive." (Insomniac Games / Microsoft Studios)
THE PLAYER The ridiculousness in “Sunset Overdrive” borders on anarchic. There are rules, like any game, but long before players discover a gun that fires a stuffed kitten — a plushy that’s used to send a robotic dog on a killing spree — “Sunset Overdrive” manages to excitedly toy with many of them. None of it should work. The look is cartoonishly crass (imagine a mash-up of every West Coast city, remade in the blunt architecture style of a rock festival), the music out of date (see the Warped Tour, circa 1995), the plot simple (humans consume too many energy drinks and turn into giant monsters) and the sociopolitical targets obvious (as for those sugary drink peddlers, yes, they’re probably insidious, but we learned that from Mike Judge’s “Idiocracy”). There are also guns. Lots and lots of guns. “Sunset Overdrive,” […]
Oct. 25, 2014 | 6:00 a.m.

‘Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved’ plays with remix culture

Utilizing only touch controls, "Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved" allows participants to play with colorful environments. (Harmonix/Disney)
THE PLAYER Walt Disney’s 1940 film “Fantasia” opens with a series of bold, inventive proclamations. Audiences are welcomed to a “new form of entertainment,” one in which the animation isn’t afraid to veer toward the abstract and the music isn’t concerned with what’s on the charts. But as the British narrator early in the new “Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved” says, “Let’s see how you handle something a little more contemporary.” Words that sent a shiver down the spine of this stubborn “Fantasia” loyalist. Indeed, the first voice we hear in “Fantasia: Music Evolved,” a just-released interactive interpretation of the experimental but venerable brand, is that of Lady Gaga. This is dangerous territory. Beethoven is timeless, but “Applause” is already dated, its glittery melodic tendrils firmly gripping 2013. Of course, those who own the Xbox 360 and the Xbox One are […]
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