Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Living in Oblivion

It was rumored that Einstein, in all of his eccentricity, kept a wardrobe of identical outfits to alleviate the burden of picking out what to wear every day. Supposedly, the stress of having to make that choice somehow interfered with his mental process, so he preferred not to waste the energy on such a mundane activity. He also refused to wear socks (which is neither here nor there, I just thought it was weird). The point is, where most people view choice as a liberty, he saw it, at least in this case, as an encumbrance. And with every new game that comes out in the middle of what should be the summer drought, I can’t help but think maybe Einstein was on to something here.

It could be early dementia setting in, but I honestly can’t remember the last time we saw the release of so many cool, new games in the middle of summer—games like Child of Eden, Catherine, Trenched, Shadows of the Damned, LA Noire, Ms. Splosion Man, and Bastion (and those are just off the top of my head). Frankly, it should more than enough to keep the most avid gamer busy till the fall. However, it’s also more than enough to drive the most resolute gamer up a wall.

There are so many things to consider when choosing which of these new games to play first, if at all. Price comparisons, pre-order bonuses, reviews, word-of-mouth, prospective DLC, potential price drops—these are all aspects of shopping around for new games that often make them feel like anything but. And as the number of feasible solutions to the new game problem increases, the more complicated the equation becomes.

As title after new title rolls out, it begins to feel a little like being stranded in the middle of a downpour with no umbrella. Sure, it feels good at first (especially in this heat, *blech*) but then you’re just kind of stuck in this torrential chaos. Your jeans get heavy under the weight of all that water, your shirt collar starts to sag down to your sternum and your shoes make that awful squishing sound. You scramble to seek shelter but there’s basically no escape. After a certain point, you calm down and come to realize: You’re not going to get any wetter, so pop that collar and suck it up. Sometimes you just have to let the rain fall, take a cue from Einstein and say, “Fuck it. I’m playing Oblivion.”

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Just a Series of Tubes

This past week, the fine folks over at Paste were kind enough to run my review of Double Fine’s new XBLA title, Trenched. Many, many tubes were harmed in the making of this piece.
As a member of Woodruff’s elite mobile trench brigade, you strut around a battlefield in giant metal pants and shoot cannons at Farnsworth’s electrified monstrosities, which explode in a satisfying array of sparks and convenient building materials. These victories are brief—each shattered tube gives way to more, and even with up to four be-trenched warriors in the fray, there is more than enough glory to go around.
It was a fun game to play and a fun review to write. Walking around the world of Trenched, I was struck by the limited capabilities of my mobile trenches—in addition to the familiar sense of inventory management present in all tower defense titles, trenches are ploddingly earthbound devices. They may be packed to the gills with firepower, but with scant resources and waves of enemies inbound to destroy whatever it is you’re tasked with protecting, it’s sometimes easy to feel like you’re at a bit of a disadvantage.