Or: reviews in miniature.
As of my writing this, I have one hundred and seventy one separate game entries attributed to my Steam account. I’ve played all of them, beaten many, and have spent no more than five minutes on more than I’d like to admit. I also have various consoles to account for, but as of now I will focus briefly on the games collected on my claustrophobic hard drive. These brief impressions will be my personal inventory, as well as a chance to discuss games that haven’t received as much shine as others. I’ll try to go in somewhat of an alphabetical order, but I’m sure I’ll throw that arbitrary distinction out the window as soon as I hit publish.
So, without further ado:
A more realistic (if that’s the word) approach to Deus Ex’s conspiracy theories, Alpha Protocol is a game whose story is little more than a collection of James Bond vignettes populated by Quentin Tarantino characters. If that doesn’t sound like it should work, I would agree–but it does. Rising global tensions influenced by a defense contractor, the overwhelming threat of a third world war, and protagonist “Agent” Michael Thorton has the time for casual misogyny and lofts in various spy movie hotspots around the globe. Apparently we have not tired of Moscow.
But the story doesn’t matter so much as Obsidian’s attention to role playing. Mass Effect’s infamous dialogue wheel takes a central role in the breakneck unraveling of the plot, but the two Paragon and Renegade options are replaced with three approaches to Thorton’s recurring spy problems, each of which can be supplemented by the player’s actions. You can act aggressive in dialogues, and you can play aggressively if you so choose; if you prefer Metal Gear Solid over Gears of War, you can act suave and sneak through beautiful set pieces and well thought out scenarios. What follows is a potent combination of the choice through narrative and choice through action systems of similar games.
Obsidian demonstrates the tried and true fact that, for action narratives, the plot can rest in the background so long as we have character. And there are a surplus of memorable faces in Alpha Protocol, not least of which is the Russian criminal mastermind/cocaine addict Konstantin Brakyo. As fans of Suda51’s games will tell you, few tools are more underutilized than the traditional boss fight: the buildup to Brayko’s fight and the ultimate reveal are too exciting to ruin here. Let it be known that I am a fan of licensed music in not-so-mimetic video games, and I will uphold this transcendent moment as my first example of its potential.
And Yet It Moves
And Yet It Moves is a vague, enigmatic experience. The player controls a cartoon cutout of a man around rocks, trees, and more rocks. Up and down are manipulated to make the man careen through tunnels of, unsurprisingly, rock and trees. Almost all of the sound in the game derives from soft clicking noises and a detached voice creating onomatopoeia–there are many “wooshes” and, my personal favorite, “skooshes” to be heard.
Unfortunately, the creator(s) of the game ran out of ideas after the first level, only to be struck with the realization that there must be more content in order for them to make money. The solution? More rocks and trees.