#Videogame #review #Hellblade @NinjaTheory #horror

Let’s get it out on the table: Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is the type of game I would’ve wanted Silent Hills to be. Not the exact game, mind you–I’d expect an SH installment to have more endings–but the degree to which Ninja Theory lovingly, carefully dropkicks the player into Senua’s broken mind is nothing short of majestic.

A significant degree of Hellblade’s marketing focused on capturing psychosis correctly (and, of course, the beautiful graphics). It’s great to see a game developer put so much care into the construction of a game’s plot, setting, and characterization that they consulted with psychologists and the mentally ill alike.

This care pays off quite well. Hellblade is full of both subtle moments of psychological tension, and direct freight-train-to-the-face moments of genuine horror, where the player doubts not only reality, but Senua herself.

Most are already aware of this, so I’ll address the most obvious element: the warning in the beginning of the game that repeated failure will result in permadeath, erasing the save file. Some were angered by this announcement, while others were angered by the fact that, apparently, no such system exists. You can die many times, but as far as anyone’s been able to figure out, nothing will permakill you.

That’s actually one of the most genius parts of this game. By terrorizing the player with such a deception, Ninja Theory instills the same existential dread Senua herself feels at all waking moments: that her failure will result in the destruction of Dillion’s soul, and her own being dragged down to Hel, her existence erased by the fact that there’s no one left to mourn or miss her.

Granted the savvy player might realize this very early on, because the warning says ‘failure,’ not death, will result in her destruction, and the black rot that symbolizes this failure grows during plot events, not so much after deaths. It took me roughly four deaths–all at the hands of the God of Illusion–to deconstruct this otherwise brilliant device and remove a significant amount of my own tension from the experience.

Hellblade, as a game, is broken into two parts: combat and puzzle solving. Ninja Theory is known for precise combat, but those who were a fan of their take on the Devil May Cry series will be a little disappointed. While the combat here is rendered well and feels very realistic to Senua’s characterization, those who fell in love with the fluidity of DMC’s action-packed, bass-thumping, mayhem-driven combat system will find Hellblade a bit formulaic and repetitive.

The puzzles are very interesting perspective-based events that fit well into the story, but unfortunately, the long puzzle-solving stretches, limited combat variance, and intensely narrative nature of this game limit the replay value. That first run through, though, is god damn amazing. 

Ultimately, how much value you get out of subsequent playthroughs will depend on whether you want to turn the ‘auto’ combat difficulty to hard, if you have any collectibles to round up, and if you played with headphones on the first time (In the words of Shia LaBeouf: DO IT!).

However, this game’s first run through alone is worth the thirty dollars it currently costs. Between the graphics so beautiful you’ll literally stop playing just to look around, and the heart-stopping moments of Senua’s descent into madness, Hellblade is easily one of the most ambitious and well-executed games I’ve played in my entire life. While I’ll be waiting for a DMC 2 (unpopular opinion, I know), I sincerely hope they get license to make the next Silent Hill. They’d nail it. No doubt at all.

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I’m now a reviewer @gametimereviews

I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve gotten a gig in game journalism, which combines my two favorite hobbies: the internet, and complaining.

Kidding, of course. As a writer and gamer, I couldn’t be happier that I’m joining this team. For those of you who don’t know, http://www.gametimereviews.com is most well known for adding a touch of the personal to their reviews. While publications like Game Informer focus on the objective things like playability and mechanics, GTR looks at replayability and, overall, if the game is actually fun. 

I’ve repeatedly bashed AAA games like L. A. Noire for being great on paper, but ultimately boring. I’m even a little ticked at Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst for having such a short main campaign (I beat the game and all side missions in probably 10-15 hours, which includes the times I got distracted collectible hunting).

I won’t be reposting my reviews here, but all their content is free, so I’ll be posting links and FYIs every time I’ve got something new up. Until then, have a good one.

#Injustice2 Theories: Lazarus Pit, R’as, Red Hood, and magic @noobde @InjusticeGame

Hi everyone,

So I’m BEYOND psyched for Injustice 2. The first game made great use of story mode, and I had a great time smashing my buddy’s face in as Sinestro.

After obsessively watching the sequel’s announce trailer, and shootin’ the shit with some dudes at GameStop, I have some theories about what the trailer was hinting at for the main game:

Enter the Pit

The narrator says very clearly, “Every time I enter the pit, I emerge reborn.” Sound familiar? This seems to point pretty clearly to The Lazarus Pit, which is known for healing wounds and even resurrecting the dead–except it steals away a piece of the user’s soul/sanity in the process, making the restored “more ferocious” (to use the narrator’s words). In Arrow, we even see one notable character brought back from the dead with no soul at all, causing her to be a bloodthirsty maniac until Constantine shows up to save her.

If you’re looking for further proof, consider that we see both The Flash and Batman die in the trailer, killed by Batman and Aquaman respectively, and you’ll see why we need a little divine intervention.

R’as al Ghul Joins the Fray

The Batman mythos has made one thing very clear: R’as al Ghul doesn’t like it when people use The Pit without his permission. The trailer also says, “Put the devil on the other side, and I will show up evolved, adapted, and prepared to fight.” R’as, aka “Head of the Demon,” is often referred to as a devil for his monstrous violence and near-immortality, from frequent Pit stops. The plot of Injustice 2 seems to say the main crew has really ticked off the League of Assassins.

Red Hood Steps Up

Or maybe not him specifically, but right after Aquaman pulls his trident out of Batman’s freshly impaled chest, he gets hit with a red batarang–the signature color of Jason Todd’s vigilante persona. Todd, for those of you who don’t know, was brought back from the dead and later had his health and memory restored in The Lazarus Pit by Talia al Ghul, R’as’s daughter.

The thing is, that batarang hits him while Aquaman is still looking down at Batman’s body. While the Batsuit we see at the end does have a distinct Batman Beyond feel, the red emblem and streaks could suggest someone else is under the cowl.

Maybe Constantine?

This is pure speculation, but if we’re getting Gorilla Grodd, who has psychic powers, then considering the Pit plotline and the possibility of Zatanna returning to the roster, we might get a certain chain-smoking magician in the lineup.

Additional support? Why the hell would Superman need armor? The only thing he’s really weak against, aside from kryptonite and Aquaman’s trident, is magic. Constantine may be a plain ole’ human, but he’s walked through Hell unscathed and bested the rulers of hell. Odds are, he has a trick or two to put Supes in his place.

Those are my thoughts. Even if I’m dead wrong, I’m excited for the game. Drop a line below and tell me what you think!

Weird crap I’ve said while playing #TheBindingofIsaac @edmundmcmillen

Hi everyone,

As you no doubt gathered from my last post, I’ve been playing lots of The Binding of Isaac lately. It’s a pretty weird game, but here are the weirdest things I’ve said or thought while playing (both alone and with friends).

Let’s take a ride.

  1. I’d prefer to start in the Burning Basement because I can make money off the fire.
  2. The Ocarina of Time has aptly prepared me to chuck a bomb in this tapeworm’s mouth.
  3. The power of flight has failed to protect me from tiny spiders.
  4. If I don’t cry on all this poop, I won’t have enough hearts to kill Mom.
  5. I’m not sure what that is, but I’m going to touch it. *Mortally wounded.* Oh. Note to self: That thing is “a bastard.”
  6. If you’re not using bombs to put out fire, you may not be doing it right. If you ARE using bombs, please direct me to the nearest bomb bag salesman, because I’m all out.
  7. I have more keys than God!
  8. The secret room was full of mushrooms, and the mushrooms were full of spiders. Again.
  9. The shopkeepers don’t mind if you blow them up. I mean, none of them complained afterward.
  10. Using a Devil Room is like gas station sushi. It might seem like a good idea, but if you’re not careful, you’ll regret it.
  11. Using a Devil Room is like choosing the holy grail. You’ll melt Nazi faces!
  12. Using a Devil Room is like insulting your mom during an argument. Sure, it might feel good, but you’re probably going to regret it.
  13. You can touch whatever you want, but don’t go crying about it if it hurts you.
  14. *Follow-up* Actually, since tears are your weapons, continue to cry.
  15. *As Samson* The best thing you can do for yourself is throw that boy on a spike pit.
  16. *As Samson* The redder you glow, the smoother your go!
  17. Remember kids: do all the drugs.
  18. I found a weaponized fetus in the basement. Good times.
  19. I haven’t been this excited for a quarter since the first World War!
  20. I haven’t been this excited for a quarter since S.H.I.E.L.D. dragged me out of the ice!
  21. I haven’t been this excited for a quarter since last week! …I’m really broke.
  22. Most games make you ask, “Why?” This one makes you ask, “What the fuck?”
  23. *As Eve* If you get attacked, your bird will eat people. It’s like Bioshock Infinite, except you’re more likely to accidentally kill yourself.
  24. *As Eve* Isn’t every night a terrible night to have a curse? I’m not less inconvenienced by the horns growing out of my head just because it’s Labor Day.
  25. *As ???, reincarnated via the Ankh* Am I cold, or just really dead?
  26. *As ???* Something stinks, and it’s probably me.
  27. *As plain old Isaac* I love how his first instinct upon finding any given object is to shove it through his head. KID. YOU’RE NOT A CLOSET, THERE SHOULD NOT BE HANGERS IN YOU.
  28. *Fighting Mom* Those calves are not meant for heels. Or going out in public.
  29. Satan can’t be killed by the Bible. Mom can, but not Satan. Why? Because he’s Satan, and you’re a child. He doesn’t have time for these games.
  30. I try to take pills whenever possible. Then I can show up to boss battles like LOOK HOW MANY SPIDERS ARE COMING OUT OF MY BODY.
  31. I’m not sure why that giant ball of crap is so yellow, but Conker’s Bad Fur Day prepared me for this. Now crank up the opera.
  32. This game has a great soundtrack, but it also syncs perfectly to Radio X from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
  33. Pro-tip: Blow up the slot machines. Also, I’m not allowed in AC anymore.
  34. The Devil Beggars are pretty chill dudes. I mean, they’re like Red Cross, but I get floating babies and damage boosters instead of fifty bucks and a cookie.
  35. There’s a fifty percent chance this game is just another set-up from Cabin in the Woods.
  36. Ultra Greed compared to every other boss is like having your girlfriend beat you to death compared to a quick kiss on the cheek.
  37. *Singin’* “’Cause I’m a gamblin’ boogey-man, although I don’t play fair!” *Dies*
  38. *Reading Isaac’s last will* How did I carry all this stuff? And when did I even find half this crap?
  39. This is by far one of the sickest, darkest games I’ve ever played. It should be a movie. I mean, everyone involved would get sued for making it, but it would have such a cult following.

That’s all for now! Keep shining on, you crazy diamonds.

Three reasons #TheBindingofIsaac might be the most #zen #game ever @edmundmicmillen

Life is suffering, and death is inevitable. Buddhism (as well as many other eastern philosophies) teaches that these two statements are parts of the, if not the entire, core of the human experience. After all, nothing is more certain than the fact that, eventually, the universe will self-destruct and everything we know will be erased.

Let’s avoid nihilism, at least for a moment. For those of you not familiar, The Binding of Isaac is a phenomenal game with high replay value. It’s also one of the most shockingly adult games I’ve ever played, with an all-too-brief story of a boy names Isaac whose mother has a psychotic episode and believes God is telling her that Isaac has become corrupted/sinful/impure.

She takes his toys and clothes, and shaves his head, but the voice commands her to kill him, much like how God commands Abraham to kill his son, also Isaac, in The Bible. Our Isaac, though, finds escape through a strange trapdoor in his room which basically leads to an ever-changing hellscape full of monsters. “Mom” is a boss, as is “Mom’s Heart” and “It Lives,” which is basically a vengeful fetus god (lookin’ at you, Silent Hill 3).

Given that your main attack is to shoot tears at the enemies until they die, and many pickups hurt Isaac (by actively damaging him or causing him emotional/bodily distress, making his tears larger/more powerful), it’s clear to see that this game isn’t for the faint of heart. But, despite its incredible learning curve and difficulty scale, it’s the most meditative gaming experience I’ve ever had.

Death is Inevitable

Sticking with this for a moment, I go in expecting to die. Did I get blown away on the first level? No problem! I figured that might happen. Die at the final boss? Well, heck, at least I made it that far, and I know better for next time. I’ve gotten blasted at the last second so many times that I recently had a perfect run (no damage) during the battle against Mom’s Heart, generally known as a Bullet Hell.

Steam user Lunick says, “**** this game,” but I say, “If I’m still alive in twelve seconds, I’m eating a whole victory cheesecake.”

Life is Suffering

The Binding of Isaac uses a couple different sacrifice mechanics, ranging from donating health to get money, which can be donated (for unlockables), spent at shops, or given to beggars (for gifts), all the way to actually sacrificing yourself by impaling Isaac on spikes in given rooms. (Brief note: he’s, like, five. Maybe younger. This game is brutal.)

 

Why is this zen? Because it teaches you not to be prideful by holding onto all that extra health, especially if you’ve left pickups behind in other rooms. Sure, if you’re on your last heart container, I recommend visiting a Great Fairy getting some more health before forking over the rest to a Demon Beggar, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve given away most of my life force only to surge back and obliterate all before me.

You are One with Everyone

Isaac is technically the only character in the game, but he takes on the forms of different Biblical characters, like Azazael, Samson, and Lilith (in the new, disgustingly-perfectly-named Afterbirth expansion). He’s always Isaac, yet shares the collective knowledge and experience of these other figures (doubly so, considering unlockables and donations carry across all runs in a given save file).

Buddhism teaches this very same concept: that we share in the collective experience of all mankind. Good things that happen to one of us happen to all of us; trauma and danger–like a child’s mother trying to kill the child–harm everyone, hence why all these other figures are trapped in the magical door to hell too.

Those are my thoughts on this game. What are yours? Give me a shout in the comment section!