Bad Movie…Worse Game? – Waterworld

Welcome to “Bad Movie….Worse Game?” where I take a look at bad movies that somehow still got a video game adaptation, to determine which was better.

First up is the infamous Kevin Costner led box office flop; Waterworld.

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A gamer and writer since developing motor skills, I'm just here doing the things I love the most. Click on my name above for a more complete bio, and full contact information. Also don't forget to follow me on Twitter at: @SilverTuna014

Flawed Masterpieces: Alan Wake

Welcome to Flawed Masterpieces, where I look at games that were great, despite a host of problems. In this edition, we have Alan Wake; a horror thriller that should have been something else, but ended up as something great. 

It was difficult not to go into the release of 2010’s Alan Wake without some level of expectations. That’s in part due to developer Remedy’s genre defining work on the Max Payne series, and partly because of a terrific promotional campaign focused more on creating an intriguing ominous set-up above actually revealing too much of the game, but mostly it was due to the game’s absurdly long development time.

Allegedly conceptualized back in 2001, but certainly in development from at least 2005, typically games that take as long as Alan Wake to make either never see release, or do get released to recoup some financial losses and end up being painfully bad, often broken, experiences.

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A gamer and writer since developing motor skills, I'm just here doing the things I love the most. Click on my name above for a more complete bio, and full contact information. Also don't forget to follow me on Twitter at: @SilverTuna014

Recent Controversies Aside, Steam is Starting to Lose Some of Its Mystique

Though certainly not at the time of its release when the platform had enough problems to warrant a Willy Nelson benefit concert, it wasn’t long into the Steam lifespan before it obtained a certain magical aura.

To understand why that is, you have to delve back briefly into the PC gaming dark ages. While it’s easy to romanticize the time when PC gaming was closer to a pirate operation than a true industry, the truth is that old-school PC gaming was often a frustrating experience.

Steam helped to fix many of these issues by providing a unified platform. In truth it wasn’t doing anything that third party programs and retail stores weren’t already doing, but by giving PC gamers a hub for their every need, Valve was able to open PC gaming to more and more people while simultaneously advancing the platform and industry into a new age.

A big part of this was Steam sales. In a short time we went from video games dropping below full retail price maybe once or twice a year, to suddenly having thousands of games available at deep discounts. It was an unheralded concept that helped gamers everywhere grow their libraries exponentially, and in the process start to fall in love with Valve as one of the most consumer friendly companies in gaming.

But this last Steam sale, that changed.

Continue reading Recent Controversies Aside, Steam is Starting to Lose Some of Its Mystique

A gamer and writer since developing motor skills, I'm just here doing the things I love the most. Click on my name above for a more complete bio, and full contact information. Also don't forget to follow me on Twitter at: @SilverTuna014

You Can Buy Murdered: Soul Suspect for $1, and You Absolutely Should

I really can’t think of a game that deserves to be a dollar more than Murdered: Soul Suspect.

I know that sounds incredibly insulting, but let me explain. Right now you can get Murdered: Soul Suspect off of the Square Enix Humble Bundle for the minimum donation of $1, and you absolutely should.

It’s likely that you either vaguely remember this game from its 2014 release, or don’t remember it at all. Well, there’s a simple explanation for that. It’s not very good.

Following the story of a murdered detective who comes back to our world as a ghost, and attempts to solve his own killing (along with a few other mysteries), from a gameplay standpoint, Soul Suspect falls well short of the flag bearers of the genre.

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A gamer and writer since developing motor skills, I'm just here doing the things I love the most. Click on my name above for a more complete bio, and full contact information. Also don't forget to follow me on Twitter at: @SilverTuna014

End of the Year Hearthstone Awards for 2015. The Hearthys!

And now, Pixel Critique brings you the first annual Hearthy awards! Your hosts for this evening will be lead Hearthstone designer Ben Brode and Eredar Lord of the Burning Legion, Lord Jaraxxus.

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 22: (EDITORS NOTE: NO ONLINE, NO INTERNET, EMBARGOED FROM INTERNET AND TELEVISION USAGE UNTIL THE CONCLUSION OF THE LIVE OSCARS TELECAST) Host Hugh Jackman speaks on stage during the 81st Annual Academy Awards held at Kodak Theatre on February 22, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Ben Brode: Welcome everyone to the first annual Hearthys! I am Ben Brode, and with me tonight is my co-host, Lord Jaraxxus.

Jaraxxus: OBLIVION!

Ben Brode: You know Jaraxxus, they say that Billy Crystal was supposed to be my co-host tonight, but that he has mysteriously disappeared to the nether realm.

Jaraxxus: TRIFILING BRODE! YOUR ARROGANCE WILL BE YOUR UNDOING!

Ben Brode: *Brode Laugh* Well, we’ve got a lot of awards to give out tonight, so let’s get started.

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A gamer and writer since developing motor skills, I'm just here doing the things I love the most. Click on my name above for a more complete bio, and full contact information. Also don't forget to follow me on Twitter at: @SilverTuna014

2015 Has Been the Year of the Sleeper Hit; Here are the 10 Best

With each passing year it becomes harder and harder to release a game under the radar.

Oh sure it sometimes feels like a hundred games come out every week, thus increasing the odds that one of them will go unnoticed, but the increase in media coverage and social network chatter means that anything with potential will likely be getting some kind of buzz prior to release.

Yet, 2015 has provided us with more genuine sleepers than I can remember in recent history. Whether this is due to the ever growing indie market or rather a growing level of cynicism that has us expecting the worst out of certain upcoming releases, it has truly been a pleasure to constantly be surprised by new releases this year.

What’s better is that this year has not only provided some of the best sleepers in recent memory, but those games have themselves been among the best of the year. We’ll be lucky to see this trend continue in the coming years, but for the time being here is my attempt at ranking these diamonds in the rough.

10. SOMA

Considering that the first trailer its first trailer was released in 2013 and the developers are the same that made some of the finest survival horror games ever, it’s not that we didn’t see SOMA coming, it’s that most had no idea how great it would be.

The developers said they didn’t even design SOMA initially to be a horror game, which I completely believe given how much of the fright comes from the environment. There are moments of pure, intended terror in this game, but they are either outshone or bolstered greatly by the general sense of dread that fills you as you navigate the game’s watery depths.

SOMA is a slow burning game, but takes little time to just get under your skin. Lend it a little patience, and you will find one of the greatest sci-fi horror games of all time.

9. Mad Max

To be fair, Mad Max is not a great game. It is, however, a game that few expected to enjoy as much as they did.

You can chalk this up to the environment. There’s so much character and little touches packed into the games wasteland, that simply driving around without real purpose can yield some of the greatest rewards.  They pale in comparison, though, to some of the game’s grander set pieces, where sweeping sand storms suddenly cover the world and leave you awestruck with the realization that video game world building has reached this point.

Mad Max could have been a cash-in on one of the biggest film properties of the year, but instead chose to take all the things that make the franchise great and convert them into one of the most purely entertaining open world experiences of the year.

8. Dying Light

“Not another zombie game” is a warranted common saying among modern gamers. It often feels safe to say that the concept has nothing left to show off, and few expected the developers of the disappointing Dead Island to be the ones to prove that mentality wrong in 2015

Yet Dying Light does just that. By incorporating a free-running gameplay system similar to what we saw in Mirror’s Edge, Dying Light dials back on the more pure survival aspects associated with this genre and instead focus on creating an action adventure playground , populated with the undead.

It results in this great mix of survival based scares and all-out action that isn’t always easy to come across. We may yet see the end of the zombie genre, but Dying Light showed there is indeed life left in the concept.

7. Life is Strange

Its first episode released in January of 2015, and since then Life is Strange has spent the entire year taking gamers by surprise.

Brilliantly marrying the concepts of time manipulation with choice based gameplay, Life is Strange takes pride in providing a narrative that doesn’t quite feel like anything before it. It delves into some very personal issues and explores minute character traits, but somehow does it in the midst of a story that spans a series of alternate timelines.

Think Catcher in the Rye meets Primer, and you’ll get an idea to the type of inventive narrative that makes Life is Strange one of the most compelling stories, and games, of the year.

6. Her Story

We’ve been treated to some pretty novel games over recent years, but few have fully realized the potential of their concept the way that Her Story does.

In it you play a detective charged with analyzing tapes of a murder suspect’s testimonials. What makes this so very different from other detective games is the lack of traditional gameplay elements. Instead, you really are responsible for tying together loose threads that only begin to unravel only after careful analysis of the tapes available.

This type of free-form gameplay is rare for a genre usually dependent on the player following a trail of breadcrumbs, but once experienced It’s hard to imagine going back to a more constructed style. Her Story is a triumph of ambition through minimalism.

5. Cities: Skylines

After the resounding disappointment of the latest SimCity, gamers everywhere became jaded to the city-building genre, and treated Cities: Skylines as little more than a knock-off when it was announced.

As soon as the first reviews began to hit, though, it became apparent that this was indeed the modern city builder that we had long waited for. Cities: Skylines removes a lot of Sim City’s bells and whistles in favor of deeper mechanics. The result is a game that is a little more daunting for the casual player, but is truly capable of keeping up with the imaginations of the most creative users in the world.

As the year goes on, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that there are few limits to what can be achieved through Cities: Skylines, as well as more and more difficult to imagine the type of experience that will dethrone this game as the king of the genre.

4. Ori and the Blind Forest

Gamers are seemingly always on the lookout for a game that’s easy to point to in the defense of the “Games are Art debate” which makes it all the more surprising that few saw Ori and the Blind Forest coming.

In terms of art direction, Ori and the Blind Forest is simply one of the most visually gorgeous games ever made. Go beyond those Disney quality visuals however, and you’ll find some truly great puzzle based  gameplay used to lend substance to a deeply emotional story.

There is a quality to Ori and the Blind Forest that is only achieved through the developer’s total devotion to every single element. It overwhelms your senses with its beauty.

3. Until Dawn

Until Dawn was a game not built to fly under the radar. After all, how many modern graphical masterpieces featuring Hollywood voice actors go largely unnoticed until release?

You can blame that on delays or an inconsistent marketing campaign, but whatever the reason once we actually got our hands on Until Dawn it didn’t take long before it became a YouTube and Twitch viral darling. The depth of consequences in this choice based game would be impressive on their own, but when combined with an atmosphere that serves as a glowing love letter to the horror genre (specifically 80’s slashers) you end up with an experience you simply have to share with others.

Within a few days of its release Until Dawn was everywhere. It’s impossible to be satisfied with this game until everyone you know shares in it alongside you.

2. Undertale

Based on what major publishers will have you believe, Undertale should be the poster child for how not to make a successful modern video game. Made largely by one person and featuring graphics that lie somewhere between the NES and SNES eras, Undertale doesn’t impress through screenshots or videos.

Instead that comes through (surprise, surprise) actually playing the game. It’s there that Undertale reveals its deep heart and world class clever writing. Yet the most impressive element may just be its gameplay, which takes what are traditionally the most boring parts of RPGs and addresses every issue that makes them so. There are slow moments in Undertale designed to be such, but there are no boring moments.

The only precursors to Undertale have been once in a generation experiences. It stands as a testament to what genuinely good writing and a desire to think outside the box can contribute to gaming. There is so much intelligence and heart in Undertale that the question of whether you personally like the game becomes slightly irrelevant. The real challenge is to find someone that can’t respect it.

1. Rocket League

There are other games on this list that I may like better than Rocket League, but if we’re talking the number one sleeper hit of 2015, the choice is obvious.

Rocket League is a phenomenon. It takes just about any gamer a few minutes to get how to play the game, but hours and hours to become truly skilled at it. You’ll gladly devote every second, though, as Rocket League manages to tap directly into the fun factor that draws people to playing video games in the first place.

Many of us may did not see Rocket League coming. However, it would have been impossible for this game to stay under the radar, as its near flawless basic design has proved to be an almost universal siren call.

A gamer and writer since developing motor skills, I'm just here doing the things I love the most. Click on my name above for a more complete bio, and full contact information. Also don't forget to follow me on Twitter at: @SilverTuna014

Bioshock Infinite’s True Story Was Its Soundtrack

Music on its own has always been an auxiliary element in my life. I’ve never really eagerly awaited the release of a new album, saved all my money for a big concert or any of those other traditional moments associated with music fandom.

However, I’ve always had a deep respect for the way the music can enhance games and movies.

After all, would films like Halloween or Jaws be half as scary without their iconic themes, or Star Wars nearly as epic without its score?  When you reference game like Super Mario Bros. or The Legend of Zelda, how often do you do so by humming a few bars of their songs?

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A gamer and writer since developing motor skills, I'm just here doing the things I love the most. Click on my name above for a more complete bio, and full contact information. Also don't forget to follow me on Twitter at: @SilverTuna014

The Most Overhyped Cards in Hearthstone History

There is a very good reason that products are field tested. You can run something through every lab and every expert, but until you get it into the hands of the general public you have no real idea just how exactly the product is going to perform.

Hearthstone cards are no exception. While straight-up bad or niche Hearthstone cards are designed intentionally for various reasons, many cards are built with the intention of being game changers.

Sometimes, though, it just doesn’t work out that way. A card can have everything going for it on paper, but it has been proven over and over again that until it comes down to trying to slot it into a deck of 30 and winning with it, you will just never know exactly what you’ve got.

Of course, that hasn’t stopped experts and players everywhere from placing their full faith and credit into a card when it is announced, only to have to eat their words when it turns out that it just doesn’t work.

Hey, it happens.

10. Piloted Sky Golem

PilotedSkyGolem

Why it Was Hyped:

Savannah Highmane.

It’s an aggressive six drop hunter card that is hard to remove, and can often win the game if left unchecked. In Piloted Sky Golem, many saw a kindred spirit to Highmane. Just a point below the famous hunter card in health, and capable of spawning an equally aggressive drop of its own, the possibilities of this card began to boggle the mind.

A six attack, four health minion that can spawn a Chillwind Yeti? How could you lose?

Why it Was Overhyped:

Well first of all, four health at the six mana spot turned out to be way too prone to removal. Hearthstone is often a game of inches, and that one point of health turned out to be an inch too few in most scenarios.

Much worse, though, is the crippling fact that most four drops simply aren’t that great. The most optimal of cards at that spot tend to come with a battlecry ability (making their sudden appearance on the field somewhat useless) and even the better cards don’t generate the kind of tempo needed to make Sky Golem viable.

As it turn out, everything people expected from this card would be reserved for the Piloted Shredder. One of the greatest Hearthstone cards of all-time.

9. Dark Iron Skulker

DarkIronSkulker

Why it Was Hyped:

In its darkest hours, those that knew Hearthstone knew that there was incredible potential for the struggling rogue class to become a tempo god.

Tempo is essentially the CCG equivalent of “Anything you can do…” It’s a style built around dictating pace, and the Skulker’s ability to clear a lot of board situations on turn five, and leave the rogue with a decent body on board to boot was exactly the kind of card many felt the concept needed to be launched into the competitive stratosphere.

Why it Was Overhyped:

The thing about tempo is that you have to make sure that each play builds off the last. Sadly rogue proved to have trouble formulating enough good plays to get the full value out of Skulker on turn five, if they were even able to get it out at that point.

Even worse was the growing presence of cards like piloted shredder and Dr. Boom, which made Skulker’s effect either useless or purely detrimental. It all combined to make the optimal scenarios in which this card could be used few and far between.

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A gamer and writer since developing motor skills, I'm just here doing the things I love the most. Click on my name above for a more complete bio, and full contact information. Also don't forget to follow me on Twitter at: @SilverTuna014

Bethesda Have Proven to be the Masters of the Mass Appeal, Grand Scale RPG

I remember in the summer of 2002 playing Morrowind on a friend’s Xbox. Never having had access to a computer powerful enough for true PC gaming prior, this was my first real taste of the type of “hardcore” RPG experience I had heard others speak of.

Morrowind was a truly incredible game of its time, especially when weighed against other console offerings. Beyond some fairly impressive visuals, it yielded no easy rewards for the player. Instead you had to delve into gameplay that featured  ambiguous directions, long periods of nothingness, a complicated (often broken) combat system and a lot of text reading to find that Morrowind is in fact one of the most thorough games ever made.

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A gamer and writer since developing motor skills, I'm just here doing the things I love the most. Click on my name above for a more complete bio, and full contact information. Also don't forget to follow me on Twitter at: @SilverTuna014

Arkham Knight’s PC Version is Officially the Year’s Biggest Joke

I’ll be honest. I used to consider myself a crafty consumer that was above being screwed over by a video game purchase. I told myself I knew the rules (stay away from EA games, buy nothing that isn’t released to press beforehand, stay away from day one releases, etc.), and even thought that, by and large, gamers were well into “shame on me” territory when they got burnt by the same tale of woe.

Yet somehow, I still managed to convince myself that Arkham Knight for the PC would be a good purchase.

Sure, I saw the red flags. Many people did prior to release.  The thing of it was, though, is that I was such a fan of what Rocksteady had done with the Arkham franchise, and was blinded by the near universal praise the console versions were receiving, that the allure of the game began to outshine those crimson warnings.

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A gamer and writer since developing motor skills, I'm just here doing the things I love the most. Click on my name above for a more complete bio, and full contact information. Also don't forget to follow me on Twitter at: @SilverTuna014

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