Midnight Mysteries: The Edgar Allan Poe Conspiracy – PC

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Ry idea of Hatsune Miku and open-source rock stars. I hope we see more “virtual” musicians, a model that could democratize pop singles without sacrificing a teenager to the music industry in the process. Hatsune Miku Project Diva Future Tone is the culmination of a solid rhythm-game series that collects music created by Miku producers and fans. If Yakuza 0 is the entry point into the Yakuza series, then I recommend Future Tone for anyone curious about the Miku phenomenon. Along with Final Fantasy XV and The Last Guardian in December, this winter has been crowded with great video games from Japanese developers.

Maybe I should have listened to Kotaku’s Jason Schreier, who’s been tracking the abundance of RPGs and interactive-fiction releases over the past few years. That said, all four games have an irritating deference for fan service: Cidney’s costume in Final Fantasy XV, the lecherous snapshot mission in Gravity Rush 2, female “pain sponges” in Yakuza 0, and skimpy bikini costumes meant for Future Tone’s cast of underage girls. January’s best games are fantastic in their own ways, but I can’t think of another month in which I was so reluctant to play games while we had guests in the house. It’s fitting that January should end with one more game from a Japanese developer, this time Capcom saving the Resident Evil series from a convoluted mythos and years of regressive action-game design. Resident Evil 7 trades the third-person perspective of previous entries for a first-person viewpoint.

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What could have been an over-the-top zombie shooter is a legitimately frightening horror game. The dark corridors of a Southern plantation borrow heavily from TV shows like True Detective and American Horror Story. But the game is most indebted to indie horror games like Amnesia and Outlast, which kept the horror flame lit while Capcom floundered with Resident Evil 5, Resident Evil 6, and a handful of remakes and spinoffs. The Baker home, in particular, is a gorgeously grotesque place, where simply wandering around and looking at things — cages whose use is best left to the imagination, or disturbingly bloodstained bathrooms — can foster a powerful sense of dread. For a decade, the developer Guerrilla Games and its hundreds of employees spent tremendous time, money, and energy on Killzone, a franchise damned by a generic title and bland premise.

A space army fights space Nazi-stand-ins through a handful of games that served largely as graphical showpieces for Sony’s PlayStation consoles. The games weren’t bad, but they were forgettable, largely running towards the goal posts established by the genre king of the last generation, Call of Duty. Horizon is the first game from the studio since Killzone.

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Phil Kollar at Polygon wrote in his review, “Horizon Zero Dawn is a refreshing change of pace for Guerrilla Games. While playing it, I couldn’t shake the feeling that this game was made by people excited to be working on it, and that excitement was contagious.” And that’s true. But what surprises me most about Horizon is how much it builds of the technical skill acquired through the Killlzone series.

Guerrilla Games learned to design beautiful scenery, write competent human drama, and design a really tangible and responsive form of combat through Killzone. And then, crucially, they didn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

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Rather, Horizon feels like a studio unburdened from a flagging genre, a meaningless sci-fi setting, and one of video games’ drabbest color palettes. The result is a creative riff on the evermore popular open world roleplaying genre, set in a fascinating “post post apocalyptic world,” drenched in color, and sprinkled with lovable characters.

Horizon is absolutely fantastic, and I can’t imagine it happening without the games that came before it. A game like Hidden Folks justifies this diary experiment. The app doesn’t have hundreds of side-quests, a fully explorable open world, or expensive 3D models.

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It doesn’t even have color. A black-and-white riff on the hidden objects genre, Hidden Folks is modest and charming. It’s also steeped in a potent nostalgia, albeit in a manner unlike its contemporaries.

You won’t find beloved characters or pixel graphics. The nostalgia on offer is akin to that of coloring books, which have had their own resurgence in popularity.

Popular Midnight Mysteries: The Edgar Allan Poe Conspiracy – PC

Popular Midnight Mysteries: The Edgar Allan Poe Conspiracy – PC

Opening the app is transportive, returning you to the time you sifted through a copy of Where’s Waldo, waiting for your Mom at the salon. Or when you combed every page of Highlights at the doctor’s office. Creator Adriaan de Jongh previously designed Bounden, a game that used a smartphone to turn strangers into dance partners.

It was a game that asked you to look outward, to connect. Hidden Folks is Bounden’s inverse.

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A game that has you quietly searching through a tiny collective image from our childhoods. It points you inwards.

Yes, it’s cute and silly and simple, but Hidden Folks is something else, too: meditative. One of my favorite conversations to have with friends about Breath of the Wild is to hear what they don’t like about the game. I know, it’s a cynical place to start, but the conversation naturally ramps to the same positive conclusion: “I hate this specific thing, but I can’t imagine the game without it.” The weapons degrade, but I love the danger of each battle.

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Thunderstorms turn Link into a lightning rod, but I love to use the weather against my enemies. The world is too big, but I love to get lost. The love / hate tension speaks to Breath of the Wild’s audacity of design.

Its directors have copped to trimming what didn’t work from Zelda, and yes, they deserve commendation for that. (Nintendo, more than most, is protective of its brands and its tradition.) But what I cherish about Breath of the Wild is how aggressively its creators have balked at assumptions about open worlds and a genre as a whole, assumptions that have been calcified over a decade of corporate risk management.

It seems silly to say a Zelda game is risky, but wow, this Zelda took risks that could have been, at almost every step, catastrophes easily mitigated with safer, proven design. When someone tells me they don’t like something in Zelda, often they mean I haven’t liked the execution of this idea in other games. But here, under the right guidance, and stripped to their essentials, rough ideas become polished, and big, risky, sometimes infuriating design is inseparable from an all but perfect adventure.

I met Zach Gage in 2009, when he made an art installation / game that randomly and permanently deleted files from its computer’s hard drive. Gage hasn’t stopped making capital-A art, but his oeuvre has expanded beyond museums and into debatably the most mainstream venue of our time: the App Store. In recent years, he’s released Sage Solitaire, Really Bad Chess, and Spelltower. You have almost certainly heard of one of them, if not played all of them. What makes Gage’s life as a mobile game designer so fascinating is that it isn’t actually separate from his life as an artist.

Gage takes the most familiar and played-out genres (a remake of Space Invaders, an update to Solitaire, a Milton Bradley board game, word puzzles) and contorts them into commentaries of themselves. As such, a Zach Gage game is like a book and a book club, and Gage is like a creator and a critic.

Gage wears plenty of other hats, too. For his latest game, Typeshift, a collaboration with Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Gage has created a contraption that would make a shrewd CMO envious. A puzzle game, Typeshift teaches players by asking them to find words. Words are aligned by shifting letter tiles up and down, each push accompanied by the perfect ASMR click. It’s addictive and edifying, like popping a special kind of bubble wrap that expands your vocabulary.

But here’s the business hook: once a board’s completed, a menu provides links to the definition of each discovered word on Merriam-Webster’s site. Merriam-Webster gets a web visit every time a player experiences the slightest hint of curiosity. In two days, I’ve probably visited the site for 50+ definitions.

The dictionary gets traffic. The player gets smarter.

And Gage, he expands the reach of his art. I’ve played a little under 50 hours of Persona 5, easily more time than I’ve spent with any single game in the past year. I’m only halfway through. When I tell this to friends unfamiliar with games, they look almost nauseous.

Don’t you know what can be accomplished in 50 hours? The go to is, almost without fail, Moby Dick. You could read Moby Dick! Twice! Games can benefit from length for a number of reasons. Minecraft and other “make your own fun” laboratories become richer as their tools become more familiar.

Well-designed e-sports — just like traditional sports — demand practice for the pursuit of perfection. Casual clickers like The Simpsons mobile game and the obscure Candy Box play themselves when the player steps away, creating a parallel and exaggerated sense of progress running alongside daily life. Role-playing games can, and often do, extend beyond the 100-hour mark, but the reward isn’t skill or education; I’d argue it’s leisure.

The genre can be loud and big — there are battles and quests to save the world and maybe even kill God in the process — but the pleasure is most often in the details, particularly those that draw similarities to our own world. To enjoy them, it demands you relax. I like Persona 5 because, frankly, I lack the imagination for

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