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If you ask me, Supergiant Games' Bastion was one of the best games to come out in the last few years. So, a new game from that indie dev studio is great news.
The glimpses of gameplay make it seem like Transistor shares some of Bastion's DNA, but the visuals are more Akira/Blade Runner than SNES retro-toon RPG. It looks cool and sounds great. Here's what Supergiant is saying about the game:
In Transistor, players assume the role of a young woman who gains control of a powerful weapon after a mysterious group of assailants nearly kills her with it. Now she must fight from street to street against forces that will stop at nothing to recover the weapon. During the course of the adventure, players will piece together the Transistor's mysteries as they pursue its former owners.
We expect Transistor to be released in early 2014. We have not yet decided on which platform or platforms the game will be available for.
Transistor will be playable at PAX East. Can't wait to learn more.
A controller gets put down. A disc gets shelved next to dozens of others just like it. But, sometimes, the game lingers. It creeps into your sleep and live on in the backs of your eyelids, demanding ever more from you.
Here's an example: the one night that the crazy nocturnal zombies from Alan Wake showed up in my head. I was me in my dream, and not the overwrought author that's starred in two games.
I hadn't played an Alan Wake game in more than eight months. But a nightmare I had about a month ago threw me into a world straight out of Remedy's psychological horror thriller. I wasn't wielding a flashlight and automatic weapons like the writer hero of the two games. I was in trouble, prey for powerful enemies without any special video game abilities.
I don't know why some games stick around my subconscious more than others. Long after I've left them behind, they pop up when I least expect. I'm not talking about the warm fuzzies I get when remembering favorites like Phantasy Star on the Sega Master System, Shadow of the Colossus or Gravity Rush. Rather, these are straight-up ambushes from the chemicals in my brain, sneak attacks that I can't predict.
Back to that Alan Wake dream. I was on the run, inside my own clumsy body after looking back at the shadow-engulfed people that were chasing me—I can remember in horrifying detail the way that a slimy darkness snaked up their legs and over their bodies. I remember feeling utterly fucking helpless. And somewhere in the churn of my thoughts, I also remember some more conscious part of my brain thinking: "Didn't I beat this game already? And the other one after it? Why am I in here?!"
Worst was how it ended. The Dark Presence—an evil force that possesses people in the Alan Wake titles—crawling up my feet, locking first my ankles, then my knees into place. I couldn't "see" what happened next but I could "feel" it. I lost the battle against the Dark Presence. That never happens in video games, which is probably why I woke up so agitated.
This dream made me wonder about how and why certain games worm their way into my head. It makes sense that Alan Wake would stay lodged in the recesses of my brain, since so much of Remedy's game concerns what happens below conscious thought. But Bastion was more of a surprise. The first few times I fell off the world in Supergiant's acclaimed action RPG, it reminded me of the acute physical sensation of when I'd fall in my dreams: a sense of increasing momentum paradoxically paired with full-body paralysis. But the Bastion-based dream was worse than just falling. This nightmare was filled with Lunkheads, the frog-like creatures that were my most hated enemy from the game. I suspect the real reason Bastion showed up is because the game's final choice is the kind of moment where you have to think about who you want to be in both real and fictional worlds. But dreams are never that clear cut, are they? I didn't have to figure out what I'd do after a cataclysmic tragedy in my Bastion dream; I was only left haunted by giant, disgustingly real versions of some of its antagonists. Lucky me, I guess?
What's more surprising are the games that haven't lingered on the edges of my unconscious brain. I loved Papo & Yo and fully expected to have daydreams or sleeping visitations from the PS3 game. But Monster and Quico haven't shown up after I fall asleep at all. Journey's another game, impressionistic as it is, that I figured would be in my dreams. But I haven't had any kind of adventures in the Wanderers' robe since I finished thatgamecompany's masterpiece. Likewise for Silent Hill 3, a game I swore would stay with me forever after scaring the crap out of me years ago, but it never ever showed up in my most meandering thoughts or dreams.
It's tough to figure out any sort of rhyme or reason as to why some games make appearances in my subconscious and others don't. The amount of time spent playing a game doesn't seem to factor into it. Titles that I've spent hours and hours with, like the Mass Effect series, never come to bed with me. The muscle memory that's a physical part of playing games probably isn't any sort of conduit to the part of my brain that brews up dreams. But the feeling of being in a gameworld—recreated in your mind with all its terror, beauty and familiar cues, yet without a button to press or the power to control an outcome—can be a terrifying one. As much as I love games, I'm glad it doesn't happen more often.
One of the neat things about Dota 2 is that you can download "Announcer Packs" that change the voice of the in-game announcer to any of a number of other characters.
This one may take the cake—Supergiant games has contributed a Bastion Announcer Pack to the game. I haven't used it, but it sounds like for $9.99, you can now have your Dota 2 game announced by Bastion's narrator Rucks. Which is amazing.
Bastion Announcer Pack [Dota 2 Store]
Maybe I'm just a sucker for pretty things, but Minecraft re-creations never cease to amaze me.
Today's impressive showing is the eponymous bastion of Bastion, created by Redditor cereal_bawks. Allow your eyes to enjoy:
The Off-Book series of mini-documentaries, from PBS, has brought us insights on video games many times before. They've taken on the perennial argument of whether (and how) games are art, and they've delved into the 8-bit phenomenon of retro graphics and chiptunes.
In this most recent installment, they delve into the indie game scene. Thanks to digital distribution, indie games by small teams are everywhere: on our computers, our consoles, and our phones. Smaller-scale games made by smaller-scale teams with no publisher affiliations are a big part of what drives the art and industry forward. Designer Zach Gage (Spelltower), composer Darren Korb (Bastion), and critic Leigh Alexander all contribute to this nifty little look at where indie games have been, and where they're going.
Jen Zee works at Supergiant Games. A small indie team, Jen is art director (and part-time badass cosplayer), meaning she's the main one to thank for the amazing colours and vibrant world of Bastion, one of the best-looking video games in recent memory.
A Seattle native, Jen has also done work for Gaia Interactive and Fantasy Flight Games. Those who love the look of Bastion should check out her other work, on her DeviantArt page, CGHub page and blog.
To see the larger pics in all their glory (or so you can save them as wallpaper), right-click on them below and select "open in new tab".
Supergiant Games' award winning action role-playing game Bastion is now available on the iPad, and it's one of the best experiences you can have with the Apple tablet. Just don't ruin it by playing without headphones.
The gorgeous hand-painted graphics and the shooting and smashing gameplay make the trip to the iPad intact, but those aren't the main draws of Bastion. It's the deep, growling voice of the game's narrator and the rich tapestry woven by the game's gorgeous soundtrack that make this game so damn pleasurable, and that's not something you're going to get out of that tiny, tinny grill Apple passes off as a speaker.
I was horrified as I started to play the iPad version, ignoring the suggestion that I should don headphones for the full experience. The poor narrator sounded trapped, caged in a world in which his sonorous pipes were rendered impotent, their magic ripped away cruelly.
And then the music started.
That glorious tapestry unraveled before my ears, sound meant to lovingly caress my hearing places at both ends condensed into a cacophony of raw, stabbing noise.
One 3.5mm plug later and all was right with the world once more, apart from the whole thing falling apart.
Bastion is now available for the iPad 2 and new iPad for only $4.99. Use the extra money you should have paid for this masterpiece to buy yourself a capable set of cans, or buy some portable speakers and share the magic with the world.
There isn't much to Sound Shapes. That's what makes it great.
I'm not talking about the campaign, which is great and I certainly could've used more of. No, I'm talking about the experience that the new Vita game delivers. From the way you play it—pretty much just rolling and jumping—to the environments you play through, Sound Shapes is a shining example of minimalism in video games.
Now, Sound Shapes could have delivered the same core experience with a tacked-on story, a more humanoid-looking avatar and more plush environments. Even it were more Mario-esque, players could still have gotten the main thrust of its structural aesthetics, which is the tight bond between sound and action.
But that fusion of music, visuals and interactivity stands out even more because of the lack of presentational clutter. Jonathan Mak's newest game isn't the only one to soar off the benefits of skeletal structure either.
Part of what made Journey such a great experience is what was left out. No words. No distinguishing characteristics on avatars' faces. No explicitly stated motivation or impetus for your character's voyage. You could make all of that up in your head if you wanted, which makes the experience all the more memorable and personal.
And look at Thomas Was Alone, which gave you only colored blocks to control. You didn't need fancy animations to become attached to the quirky personalities. And detailed textures wouldn't have made the environmental puzzles any better either. Everything wonderful about the game comes across with a limited architecture.
Fez's spare presentation makes its signature mechanics seem even more magical. It helps sell the conceit that being able to rotate the world into a third dimension would rock the perceptions of the creatures that live in the gameworld. And it also makes the tough puzzles in the retro-looking platformer feel that much harder. There are very few distractions in Fez, just you and the brain-teaser that's driving you crazy.
Last year, Bastion exercised a sort of minimalism, too. It scraped away a lot of the trappings that you'd normally find in an action/RPG hybrid. Supergiant's hit from last year clearly riffed on the tropes of Japanese RPGs. But a lot was pared away. There's none of the melodramatic romances or tangled subplots typical to the genre. Bastion's minimalism was one of tone, not presentation. But it still had the same multiplying effect as in the examples above, where the agonizing choices felt more monumental because they stood out more.
Excess and minimalism don't have to be mutually exclusive, either. Moments of quiet economy exist in big-deal AAA games like, say, Batman: Arkham Asylum and Gears of War 3. But the less-is-more approach can feel more brave because there's less room to hide flaws. However, when minimalism succeeds in a game like Sound Shapes, it's because the unique elements are the main thing you interact with. And you'll probably remember those more.
What better way to pay tribute to it than mixing it together and throwing down some rhymes? Rapper Adam WarRock has done just that—you can hear his first track in the video above.
It's good times, as these things tend to be—more than a little dorky but also fun, in an earnest sort of way.
You can download the whole thing from Warrock's website for free.