Category Archives: gaming

Thoughts: Mini Motorways

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It is not remotely surprising to me that Mini Motorways was immediately snapped up by Apple for a couple of years’ exclusivity on Apple Arcade. The game is an extraordinary aesthetic achievement — a perfect blend of rounded edges, pastel colours, minimalist interface and intuitive touch-centric controls that seems to have been laser-targeted at Apple’s UX designers with the intention of sending them into paroxysms of orgasmic joy. I have no doubt that when an iOS developer goes to sleep at night, they dream of things that look very much like Mini Motorways — and not without good reason, either, since Mini Motorways is in many ways the Holy Grail of UX design. I have worked in several organisations that would kill to be able to express the core purpose of their product as simply and as naturally as Mini Motorways does. It’s a pleasure to look at, a pleasure to interact with, and a pleasure to play.

For the first hour or so, anyway.

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Thoughts: Desperados 3

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It’s taken me the better part of a year to get around to Desperados 3. This may seem a little odd given how much I liked Shadow Tactics, the previous game from Desperados 3 developers Mimimi; however, there’s a few reasons for that, first and foremost of which is that, historically, I haven’t liked Westerns as a setting for videogames. I’ve played a few across a range of different genres — Red Dead Redemption, Call Of Juarez: Gunslinger and Hard West are the ones which immediately spring to mind — none of which struck me as being particularly bad, but none of which I managed to stick with for more than a few hours. This is strange because I am quite a big fan of movie Westerns, particularly anything from Sergio Leone, but I can never take them seriously when they’re transplanted into a videogame; matching the mechanics to the setting is always a sufficiently contrived process that I end up feeling like I’m wandering around inside a knockoff version of Westworld and quit shortly afterwards.

This is why I never took the time to go back and play the original Desperados games, and it’s a big part of why I’ve dragged my feet on installing Desperados 31 until now. I’m glad I did though, because now that I’ve finished it I’ve realised two things:

  • It is possible to make a decent Western-themed videogame which doesn’t have to contort itself into unusual shapes to fit into whatever the genre du jour is, which conclusively proves that the problem doesn’t lie with the setting.
  • If I’d actually bothered to play it last year, Desperados 3 would have been a serious contender for my GOTY 20202.

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  1. The other reason is that it was published by THQ Nordic, a company I am trying to avoid giving money to after somebody pretty high up in the company decided it would be a great idea to do an AMA hosted by notorious internet toilet 8chan.
  2. It would have lost to Hades, but I don’t think I played anything else last year that would have beaten Desperados 3 to second place.
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Thoughts: Subnautica – Below Zero

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In this review I am going to try and figure out if the words “streamlining” and “compromising” are inevitable synonyms of one another.

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Thoughts: Resident Evil Village

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Well, this is embarrassing. I told myself I wasn’t going to buy another Call Of Duty after they switched back to doing their oh-so-tedious contemporary settings, but with the werewolves and the giant castle this newest one at least looked a bit diff – wait, what? This is a Resident Evil game?

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LucasArts Time Machine: The Dig

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So, I’m about to say something that might sound surprising coming from somebody who has been going around with the box art from The Dig as his avatar for the last 15 years. There’s good reason for that; not only is it an extremely striking piece of artwork, but there’s a lot about The Dig that I absolutely adore. I love the theme. I love the music. I love the artwork and the animation, and above all I love the sheer sense of atmosphere that The Dig conveys at all times. It’s the first one of these games where, for once, I don’t resent having to watch my character walk from one side of a screen to the other because that gives me a bit of time to soak in the sounds and visuals of its mysterious alien world.  The Dig gets a hell of a lot right, for all that it makes some weird choices in terms of its interface; it would work extremely well as a visual novel, or perhaps as the 1995 equivalent of a walking simulator.

But as a classically-styled point-and-click adventure game with puzzles? I’m not so sure about that.

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LucasArts Time Machine: Full Throttle

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Prior to playing it for this series, I would have sworn that Full Throttle belonged firmly in my “unplayed” category of LucasArts classics. “Unplayed” isn’t an exact description, as I did have access to most of them at the time and the ones that I didn’t I’ve since picked up on GOG, but anything in this column I’ve not played for much more than twenty minutes — the amount of time it takes to boot it up, think “That’s neat!” (or not1), and then immediately forget about it for the next decade or three. In Full Throttle’s case I had very distinct memories of playing through the opening biker bar segment three or four times and absolutely nothing after that, since I hadn’t played past that point.

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  1. Hello, Star Wars Rebellion.
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