Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Hungry Like The Wolf

When I last posted, I was in the middle of Bully. Well, I'm proud to say that I beat that game. Overall, it was an excellent experience, remniscent of the GTA series, but with a charm all its own. I highly recommend it.

I've moved on to Okami, and decided to start over from the beginning, rather than picking off where I'd left off all those months ago. This proved to be a wise decision, as I breezed through the parts I'd played already at lightning speed and got to the point I'd been at as a much richer and more powerful wolf.

I just fought the 8-headed dragon that everybody was blabbing about throughout the entire game. When I first realized I was gearing up to fight him, I was pretty bummed out, because I assumed he'd be the final boss. I guess he's not? Or maybe I'll have to fight him again? I'm not sure, but the point is: the game is, thankfully, far from over. The boss battle was pretty creative and fun. I had to get each of his eight heads drunk on some kind of mystical super-sake, and then beat the shit out of the individual head. Good times. I look forward to seeing what this game offers up next, and from now on I will try my best to blog about my progress as it's happening.

Friday, October 10, 2008

I Like Video Games

Okay, since we last spoke, I purchased and finished Lego Batman. It's probably unnecessary for me to tell you that it fucking rules. You know how I feel about these Lego games, and this one is obviously the best one because it's the one that has Batman in it. Getting to play as all the different villains in Batman's rogue's gallery is a real treat, especially when you can doll the Joker up in the outfit he wore when he shot Barbera Gordon in The Killing Joke (which is the best comic book story of all time). I really want to unlock Ra's al Ghul and Hush, but a glance at www.gamefaqs.com tells me that it's not really worth the effort. Anyway, if you enjoyed any of the previous Lego games, and aren't sick of the formula yet (I'm not!), then you'll love the shit out of this.

So, having beaten Lego Batman, I decided to go back to one of the games I'd previously left unfinished. My choices were Okami and Bully. In my last entry, I told you about my problems with Okami, so I decided to give Bully another shot.

At the time when I left Bully behind, it was sort of leaving me cold. The game seemed to be this endless routine of: Wake up, go to class, do some boring mission, go to class, dick around a little, save, go to sleep, repeat. The teeny-tiny game world, strict time system, and bullshit daily tasks made the game seem almost Harvest Moon-ish, except less adorable and heartwarming. So it was with reluctance that I went back to it. But oh man, was I wrong!

The first thing I did when I put the game back in was finish the mission I'd failed at the last time I played, and as soon as I did, the game's next chapter happened to start - and lo and behold, I unlocked the town! I was free to leave the school grounds! This changed EVERYTHING. The town is incredibly fun, with so much to do that it's almost overwhelming (in that GTA kind of way). I know have a full-on Bully addiction, and have found myself up at 2am on more than one occassion, saying to myself, "just one more mission before I go to sleep".

So what's going on in the game, you might ask? Well, first of all, check this out: I am a god damned punk rocker! I have a spiked green mohawk, an awesome hoodie covered with patches and 1" buttons, and plaid pants. I am so fucking cool and bad-ass. I like just looking at my character. I have earned the respect of both the nerds and the preppies, and now I am working on the greasers. I kinda also have TWO girlfriends (which is two more than I currently have in real life). One is a gross fat girl, but the other one is a hot preppie bitch who loves my bad-boy attitude. I have a feeling that pretty soon I'll also be making out with the slutty greaser chick. I am quite the player.

In other news, I bought this DS game called CrossworDS and it sucks. I had bought my ex-girlfriend a copy of the New York Times Crosswords game last year, and so I'd played a lot of that, and loved it - so I figured a first-party Nintendo crossword puzzle game would be even better. Nope. The puzzles are stupid, childish bullshit, and the input system sucks. Avoid this game, and get the New York Times one.

Last but not least, I'm going to purchase Sam & Max today, which I'm really excited about. Until next time, keep playing with power.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Gently Wiiping

Yo. So, I haven't posted in a while. The fact is, for a period of about three months, my life got pretty wackadoo, and as such I didn't touch my Wii that entire time (except for a handful of Mario Kart games with friends). Pretty much all my leisure time was devoted to whiskey, cocaine and weeping, so there wasn't a lot of time for Nintendo. I was almost afraid to even hook the Wii up, to tell the truth. The fact is, I see video games as something to put the cherry on top of good times. A nice supplement to a fun and comfortable life. During bad times, the mere thought of losing myself in a crazy fantasy world is kind of depressing and offputting. I know that's probably the exact opposite of how most normal people think, but hey, I'm a fucking weirdo.

Anyway, times have been a bit better lately, so I've recently put the Wii back on active duty. The first thing I tried to do was pick up where I left off in my game of Okami, which was the last thing I'd been playing. Unfortunately, when I turned on the game, I had no idea where the fuck I was, or what I was supposed to do, or even what the game's basic controls were. So I turned it off. Since then, I've kind of gone on a nutty WiiWare shopping spree, and the results of that have taken up the lion's share of my Wii time. Here's what I've been playing:

Dr. Mario - I know I'm in the minority here, but I've always thought of Dr. Mario as kind of meh as far as falling-block puzzle games go. I don't think it's anywhere near as good as Tetris, Wario's Woods (the best puzzle game of all time), Puzzle League/Tetris Attack or even Yoshi's Cookie. I find it frustrating, and slightly counter-intuitive. I also think the game makes it really difficult to bounce back from fuck-ups, which is a huge puzzle game no-no in my book. Hey, I dunno, maybe I just totally suck at it. Still, it's a pretty good game, and the WiiWare version is just about as awesome as it can get. I especially like seeing my little Mii all dressed up like a doctor. The motion-control version included here is totally silly and pointless, but I find it pretty fun. It makes an old, stale game feel somewhat new and fresh.

Magnetica Twist - People will rip my throat out for this, but I find this a much more satisfying puzzle game experience than Dr. Mario. It's basically Bust-a-Move except you're in the middle of a loop and the bubbles slowly twist around you towards a black hole of death. Spin around and eliminate bubbles before they reach the hole. Pretty simple. The two-player co-op mode is super fun, and Mii support adds a lot of charm. I love this shit!

Strong Bad Episode 1- I am not at all familiar with these Homestar Runner characters, and quite frankly, I don't find them really funny at all. But, I liked this game. Point-and-click adventure might be my absolute favorite genre of video games, and it thrills my little heart to see the Wii become a platform for them! This game, from Telltale, is a simple but fun adventure. Not a whole lot of real head-scratchers here, but enough going on to make it engaging. I'm sure that if you're a fan of the characters, it's way, way better. My only gripe is that these episodes are gonna be $10 each, and I beat this one in like 2 hours, so I'm torn as to whether or not I wanna stick around for the whole run of them. We shall see!

LostWinds - Shit is really good. Pretty-looking Metroidvania-esque platforming, with a fun motion-controlled wind mechanic. My only real beef with this game is that there is no map screen included, which makes it pretty easy to get lost, if you're a doofus like me. Besides that though, this is pretty satisfying so far. I like making the wind blow random shit in the background

Defend Your Castle - I was at Jonnie Whoa Oh's house when I downloaded most of these WiiWare games, and I figured Jonnie and I would spend the evening playing LostWinds together. As it turns out, we ended up playing this nonsense for like two and a half hours straight. By the end of it, my wrist felt like it was going to fall off of my fucking body. This game is super shallow, and ridiculous, and you'll feel stupid for wasting your time with it, but mark my words: you will waste your time with it. Especially if you've got a buddy to join you. And hey, it's only $5.

So that's what I've been up to. As far as "real" games go, I dunno. I'm probably either going to give Okami another try, or wait for September when Sam & Max comes out. I'll keep you posted!! It's nice to have the Wii back in my life!!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Previously On Lost: Pikmin and Drill Dozers Play with Lego

Jonnie and I finished the Lost game, and he is now going to try desperately to sell it on ebay. All in all, it was a pretty shitty game, but I'm glad I played it. But that's mostly because Jon spent his hard-earned money on it and not me. If I had paid $60 for it, I would definitely feel differently.

Again, I don't wanna spoil anything so I'll keep all of this as vague as possible. Elliot's backstory turned out to be mildly interesting, especially if you're a follower of the mythology covered in supplemental stuff like The Lost Experience. For the most part though, it was really nothing special. The real interesting part of the game, story-wise, was its ending. Again, no spoilers here, but the ending of this game presented a crazy twist the likes of which we've never seen on Lost before. If this could be considered "canon" - in that it's a theme that will also be explored on the TV show - then this ending opens up some very interesting possibilities. If it's NOT canon, then it will probably be directly contradictory to the TV show. I had to find out if this ending was sanctioned by the creator's of the show, or if it's just weird fan-fiction slapped together by some Ubisoft hack. A buddy tipped me off to this interview, which states that Damon Lindelof himself came up with the ending. Interesting.

Anyway, the game is worth playing for die-hard Lost fans. Both for the ending and the decent amount of fun that is to be had by exploring your favorite locales from the show. Just make sure you RENT rather than buy, because the game is only like six hours long, and is mostly dumb bullshit.

So, what else have I been playing? Well, having reached a part I just plain can't figure out in Phoenix Wright, I decided to take a break from it for a while and play my newly-acquired (for $5!!) copy of Drill Dozer. This game is just fucking wonderful. It is Nintendo at its best, combining classic old-school gameplay with a fun and fresh new mechanic. Esentially, every level is a miniature little Metroidvania environment, which your character must explore. The twist is, you are in a giant Drill Dozer, and must drill through various blocks, structures and enemies in order to advance. As you progress through each level, you find additional gears for your drill, which allow you to access previously blocked areas. The whole drill thing may sound like a one-note mechanic, but it's really quite impressive how many interesting platforming ideas they got out of this seemingly-simple action. The fact that you control the drill with the shoulder buttons and that the game has a built-in rumble feature adds to the fresh feeling of drilling shit.

My one complaint about the game is a complaint I have about 90% of platform games: that the developers felt the need to throw in stupid-ass water and flying levels. I fucking hate water levels. They are the worst, most annoying part of any game they're in (including Super Mario and Donkey Kong Country games. They interrupt the flow of the gameplay, and in the case of Drill Dozer, the core gameplay is so fine-tuned and perfect, that it's really a bummer when you have to swim. Or fly. Flying is even worse. I just encountered the game's flying level, which introduces an awkward and annoying new control scheme, and to make matters worse, I suspect that this is the game's final level. Now that's really lame! As annoying as the swimming levels in Mario games are, at least I don't have to swim around fucking Bowser as my last dumb-ass action in an otherwise brilliant game! That would put a little bit of a damper on my Drill Dozer experience. But, like I said, this is just a theory so far. If I can ever BEAT THE FUCKING STUPID FLYING LEVEL, I'll confirm or deny the validity of my hypothesis. Even if it turns out to be true, however, 90% of this game is pure brilliance, and I can't recommend it enough. I really hope Nintendo has the sense to put out a sequel on the DS or dare I say WiiWare.

I also beat Lego Star Wars. What a beautiful game. I am really looking forward to Lego Indiana Jones and Lego Batman. It seems to me like Lego has created one of the most potentially brilliant franchises of all time here. They can keep making sequel after sequel, retaining the same addictive gameplay, but applying an awesome new license to each one. That way they can keep the series fresh and interesting, while at the same time drawing in new legions of fanboys for each game. A cursory glance at the Lego website reveals that the only other current licenses are all pretty lame (Harry Potter, Spongebob Squarepants, Avatar), but I'm sure if these games continue to be successful, the possibilities will be endless. Imagine a Lego Resident Evil?? Holy shit, that would rule.

I've also just rediscovered my Wii's capabilities as a Gamecube, and have begun replaying Pikmin. I loved the shit out of this game when it first came out, but I never beat it. I basically played until success seemed hopeless, and then started again, and repeat. I guess I'm doing it again now. But, so far, I'm doing pretty well. I've been playing for ten in-game days, and I have ten parts of my spaceship reclaimed. Not bad, so far. Unfortunately, I just wrapped up the game's first two locations, which means I have to venture into the stupid horrifying Forest Naval level, with its fire-monsters, maze-like layout and endless creepy beaches. To make matters worse, I just lost all my yellow Pikmin except about 25 in an against-my-better-judgment attempt to take down a big-ass ladybug. I forgot that a couple of them were holding bombs, and then BOOM!! Oh god it was sad. I don't know how I'm going to go on.

But all the dumb shit I just wrote is totally moot compared to the fact that SMASH BROS. BRAWL COMES OUT THIS SUNDAY. I can't fucking wait. Holy shit.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Lost Potential

Last night Jonnie Whoa Oh and I, along with our friend Seth, played the Lost video game on Jonnie's Xbox 360. As a preface, I should mention that all three of us are rabid, obsessive Lost fans, and so we were pretty excited to delve into this game. If you're not a follower of the TV show, then this post is probably going to be pretty irrelevent to you, but if that's the case, you should really be ashamed of yourself, because Lost is the best television show of all fucking time. You best learn your shit. For those of you who DO like the TV show, rest assured that the following post will be spoiler free, because I wouldn't dream of ruining the game's story for you. Well, it'll be mostly spoiler-free. If you can't assume that in the Lost game you'll be encountering the smoke monster and entering the hatch, for example, then fuck you. Choke on my spoilers. Choke on them.

Okay, first I'll tackle the positive aspects of this game, which shouldn't take very long. First of all, bear in mind that this is my first experience with a "next-gen" video game system. So I must say that I was totally fucking blown away by the graphics. The environments in this game are simply gorgeous, lush and drool-worthy. It almost made me depressed, briefly, to be a Wii loyalist. The characters, however, are stuck firmly in the uncanny valley. Not quite as badly as the characters in the CSI game, but still pretty bad. No biggie though, because the environments more than make up for it.

If you are a fan of Lost, this game's entertainment value rises about its mediocrity, because it's pretty exciting to be able to explore the various locations from the show. Walking around on the beach, in the Hatch, and in the black rock is a real treat. The hatch is especially awesome, it's layout precise to the TV show. I knew my way around fairly well from the moment I stepped in, and it was great fun to play with the computer, type in the numbers and look around for stuff I remembered from this location on the show. The game is also divided into"episodes", all of which are preceded by a "previously on Lost" segment, which is really fun. Likewise, it's fun to see how your progress in the game coincides with the going-ons from the first two seasons of the TV show. That kind of fan service makes the game more satisfying than it should be.

The plot of the game is also fairly intriguing. I'm not gonna give too much away, but your character was a passenger on Oceanic 815, and the crash rendered him an amnesiac. He doesn't remember anything about his life, or even his name, and the plot of the game revolved around him slowly remembering the details of his life and of the circumstances that led to him being on 815. These memories are triggered via flashbacks, and will presumably lead to a story that is tied in with the Lost mythology. More on these flashbacks later.

The most hilariously awful aspect of this game is the voice-acting. Some characters from the show (Desmond, Claire) actually provided their own voices, and a couple of others are represented by fairly decent sound-alikes (Kate, Jack). But the majority of characters' voice actors are ridiculously awful. Locke and Sawyer (who sound like Barney Rubble and Yosemite Sam, respectively) are especially bad. It's pretty weird to me that these guys couldn't take two hours out of their lives to record some dialogue for this game, but whatever.

The most depressing thing about this game is that there is SO much potential that is just totally wasted. For example, I don't know about you, but the first thing I think of when I imagine a Lost video game is getting to run around and explore the jungle. Unfortunately, you are unable to do this. The jungle in this game pretty much just acts as a catalyst to get between settings you actually CAN explore. Entering the jungle triggers a shift to a new gameplay mode, where the player is on a rigidly linear path and must follow signposts or compass bearings from one checkpoint to the next, until he reaches his final destination. If you stray even a little bit from this set path, the game stops you in your tracks, your character says "I've lost my bearings" and you are placed back at the beginning of your path. This is super, super fucking lame - especially since the jungle is SO fucking beautiful and lush and lifelike. As I walk through it, all I want to do is break away from the linear path and explore, but it's just not allowed. I don't really see why this game couldn't act like other action games, where you are given a map of your environment and you are free to explore as you make your way to your destination. It's really a shame.

The second huge piece of wasted potential is the aforementioned flashback segments of the game. Basically, when you see or hear something that triggers a vague memory, your character enters a flashback. Your goal in these flashbacks is to reclaim a lost memory, which will then somehow aid you on the island. This is a really cool gameplay idea for ANY game, and is especially appropriate for a game based on Lost. Unfortunately, it's fucking lame. First of all, your to-do list within the flashbacks is exactly the same every single time. You have to take a picture of something really obvious, then you have to search for the area's three "clues" (which take the form of a folder, a letter, or a tape recorder every time), and finally, you talk to a character. It would be great if the path to finding your memory was different every time and required some out-of-the-box thinking, like in a great adventure game. Another disappointing thing about these flashbacks is the way your memory impacts your progress on the island. I was hoping it'd be cool stuff like "Oh! I remembered I am an expert rock climber, so now I have a brand new ability within the game!" But no, it always just impacts the conversation paths you are able to have with other characters. The flashback segments are a great idea that could have created some truly unique new gameplay mechanics, ruined by the same type of phone-it-in laziness that diseases nearly all licensed games.

A couple more really shitty things about this game before I wrap this up. First of all, the cave segments. Fuck the god damned cave segments. These involve you making your way through a cave, as your torch slowly burns down, getting hopelessly lost, and eventually falling into a fucking hole or getting attacked by bats. These segments are boring, confusing, and an obvious attempt to add another artificial barrier to this game. The other shitty thing is the puzzles. Or should I say puzzle, because you have to do the same damn "Get the fuse box to the proper wattage through the magic of SUBTRACTION" puzzle about every half hour. Fucking lame city.

I want to end on a positive note, because I really don't HATE this game. The last segment we played before we called it a night involved entering the Dark Territories to reach the Black Rock. This was pretty much just like all the other jungle segments, but with one twist: This time, you were being mercilessly pursued by the smoke monster. To elude him, you have to hide in these little groves of trees, inside of which your POV shifts to first-person. Then you search around, looking and listening for the monster, until you feel the coast is clear. This segment was truly tense and really scary, in a survival-horror kind of way. The monster swirling around your tiny safehold, and its loud-ass noises, made this part of the game full of tension and, for me, immensely satisfying. It's also one of the only parts of the game (besides the hatch) that really, truly makes you feel as if you are inside of the TV show Lost and experiencing what its characters experience. But, I can't help but feel that even this would be massively improved if you had free reign to run around in the jungle, with the monster on your tail.

All in all, I'm enjoying playing the game, but that's really just because of how big a Lost fan I am. If you love the show, definitely rent this game and try it out. We are about halfway through the game, so hey - for all I know, it could get way better. We're gonna probably play again on Sunday, so I'll report back then.

Monday, February 25, 2008

It's Been A While! Here's An Update.

Sorry for the lack of posts recently! I don't really have an explanation - it just sort of happened. Rest assured that I HAVE been playing a lot of video games, and I'll briefly cover them here.

CSI: Hard Evidence (Wii) - I bought this game to play with my girlfriend, since she and I are both fans of the CSI TV show (with ironic detachment, of course), and of point-and-click adventure games. The CSI Wii game is surprisingly good. It's not quite the total shovelware you'd think it would be. The cases are actually pretty fun and engaging, especially if you are a fan of the TV show. My major criticism is the game's conspicuous use of the same characters and locations over and over again. Anyway, we beat this game, and at some point in the future, we're probably gonna go back and try to beat it 100%.

Harvey Birdman (Wii) - I actually bought this game, which was a huge mistake. It's a very fun game, but DO NOT BUY IT. Rent it. Borrow it. Just don't buy it. It lasts a total of maybe 3 or 4 hours and has absolutely zero replay value. It holds the honor of being the first Wii game I've sold back to gamestop. Having said that, the game itself is really fun while it lasts. Imagine a simplified and dumbed-down version of Phoenix Wright that is overflowing with Adult Swim humor.

Professor Layton and the Curious Village (DS) - This game is fucking amazing. Highly recommended. It's basically a mixture of a point-and-click adventure game and a book of brain-teasers, and the combination works surprisingly well. The story is fun and engaging, the animation is superb, and the puzzles are excellent. Not only that, but the game has a shitload of replay value in the form of hidden puzzles, bonus features, and even weekly downloadable puzzles. I beat the game, but I still have a hell of a lot of puzzles yet to solve! And I'm already drooling for a sequel!

Phoenix Wright: Trials and Tribulations (DS) - I know the fourth game in the series just came out, but I only just now got my hands on the third one. I am in the midst of the game's second case (the one where the urn gets stolen by the masked theif), and it's classic Phoenix Wright. In fact, it even seems a tad bit more challenging than the first two games, which is great! This is one of my all-time favorite game franchises, so it goes without saying that I'm enjoying the hell out of this game.

Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga (Wii) - I never played through either of the Lego Star Wars games, but always wanted to, so I pounced all over this Wii version. It's probably the easiest game I've ever played (it's impssible to get a Game Over; if you die, you just respawn in the same spot with full health), but it's just a pure adrenaline rush of FUN. Challenge is not always necessary for fun, and in the case of Lego Star Wars, I think being super easy actually works in its favor. It makes it more rewarding to try different things, and to explore different areas that you might not choose to if you were worried about dying. Anyway, I've just finished the Empire Strikes Back portion of the game, and I'm about to take on Return of the Jedi. Then I'm done with the main game, but you can bet that I'll be revisiting these levels to try to unlock new shit. This game is even more fun and addictive than I thought it would be! I can't wait for Lego Batman!!

In other news, my birthday just passed and it brought some more awesome video game-related shit into my life. First of all, I used an Amazon gift certificate to pre-order the Wii version of Bully. I kind of love the fact that the Wii is sort of acting as a venue for enhanced remakes of the PS2's greatest hits. It allows me to play a lot of games I missed the first time around. I'm very excited about Bully and also Okami. In other birthday news, my girlfriend got me a new Classic Controller to replace the one that MY MOTHER'S DOG ATE THE WEEK BEFORE!!!! She also got me a Wave Bird, which I absolutely NEED for Brawl.

The Lost video game comes out this week and I am probably going to play through it with Jonnie Whoa Oh, so the next entry in this blog will most likely deal with that! See you then!

Monday, January 14, 2008

My Favorite Free Games

Here's something a little bit different from my usual posts. The following is a list of my favorite indie games that are available for free on the internet.

Video games are a lot like music. Beneath the shiny veneer of the mainstream, there are a million independent artists creating brilliant, innovative, beautiful games with little or no budget, just for the pure joy of creation and of sharing their creation with others. These people, as much as awesome mainstream developers like Miyamoto, are setting the groundwork for the future of gaming. With the rise of download services like X-Box Live Arcade and WiiWare, there are more platforms for little games like this than ever before, and I hope the big video game companies take notice and advantage of this fact. As much as I love the idea of playing games by Nintendo/Squaresoft/Capcom/etc on WiiWare, for example, it would be way more exciting for me to be able to download a game made by a regular joe with a wild, batshit idea and a little bit of programming know-how. Hopefully that day will come soon, but until then, there's plenty of awesome shit you can play on the internet for absolutely free.

Here are some of my favorites. Check them out, and you'll see a glimpse of the bright future of gaming. Feel free to post YOUR favorites in the comments section as well!

5 Days A Stranger
by Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw

A year or so ago, while searching for free point-and-click adventure games on the internet, I stumbled across a website called Adventure Game Studio. AGS is a program that allows a person to create his or her own adventure games, using a very user-friendly template. The associated website and forum became a trading post for passionate adventure game fans to share their own creations with the world. There are a TON of great games on AGS, a lot of which, in my opinion, actually rival the classic Sierra and Lucasarts adventures. My favorite AGS developer, by far, is a guy named Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw. Croshaw has created a number of games using AGS, all of them excellent, but my favorite work of his is the Trilby series. 5 Days a Stranger is the first game in the series, and it is followed by 3 sequels (7 Days a Skeptic, Trilby's Notes, and 6 Days a Sacrifice) as well as a spin-off platformer (Trilby: The Art of Theft). In the world of point-and-clicks, where humor and horror are the two most prevalent elements, Croshaw excels at them both. This series is definitely on the horror side of the fence, and it is often extremely creepy. It's impressive how these incredibly primitive graphics (drawn, I believe, in MS Paint or something similar) can convey such a sense of dread and tension. The game's story is epic and completely enthralling, with some fascinating and shocking twists along the way, and the puzzles are top-notch. Play this great series of games and you will be hooked. Then play everything else Croshaw has ever made.

by Jason Rohrer

is probably the best evidence I've ever seen that video games ARE art. I don't want to spoil to much about this beautiful game, but I think the most brilliant aspect of it is the way that its use of the cliched old video game conventions - mazes, treasure, points, hazards - are reworked as metaphors that serve the piece's main theme. Because of this, Passage is not just an interactive piece of art; it is actually an old-school video game, played for a high score. At the same time, its message is extremely powerful (so much so that it nearly brought me to tears - nearly). The concept of this game is so brilliant that I'm hoping it eventually gets noticed by a big developer, and made into a full-length modern game - this is a concept that definitely deserves to be expanded upon. Go play this game - it will only take literally five minutes. After you've played it, and formed your own opinion, check out the Creator's Statement to read about the author's intent with this game.

Cave Story
by Studio Pixel

Cave Story
has been around for a few years and seems to have a pretty large fanbase, but I only just discovered it. The game is very similar to the 2D Metroid or Metroidvania titles, in that the playing field is a vast series of mazes to explore, while discovering new abilities that allow you to venture into previously unreachable areas. But it also stands apart from the aforementioned games by incorporating interesting RPG-esque elements. The most obvious is the story, which advances through interaction with charming non-player characters in town-like areas. Your weapons, of which there are many, also get levelled up (and down!) through a simple RPG-like experience system. The game's environments are beautiful, quirky and fun as hell. The characters and story are a step above most side-scrollers, and the music is great. Cave Story is a fantastic accomplishment that must be played by any platforming fan.

Mario Adventure
by DahrkDaiz

Mario Adventure
is a Super Mario Bros. 3 hack. However, unlike most Mario hacks, which offer up minimal cosmetic differences (as well as brilliant names like Super Retarded Bros, Super Napoleon Dynamite Bros, and Super Mario Bros Except if Mario Was Black), this game is more than just the ROM equivilent of a bootleg Bart Simpson t-shirt. This is a whole new game, and quite frankly, it's one of the best Mario games I've ever played. Taking the "rules" of a Mario game and twisting them as far as they can be stretched without breaking, the end result is something that even Nintendo could learn a few lessons from. Brand new worlds, enemies, power-up costumes (Magic Mario is amaaaazing)... randomly generated weather elements that affect each level... gameplay goals that go beyond the "point-A-to-point-B" challenges of most Mario games. This game is incredible, and if Nintendo has any sense, they'll hire this dude as a level designer. There is also a sequel, entitled
Mario vs. Luigi, which I have yet to play. But Mario can get a Mouser suit power-up in which lets him toss bob-ombs! Holy shit!! NOTE: You will need an NES Emulator to play either of these games.

Another excellent series of games made with
AGS. The Ben Jordan series (which has six installments so far) features a globe-trotting paranormal investigator, who tracks down monsters and ghosts in exotic locales (everywhere from Florida to Japan to Scotland to Greece). Though each chapter is a stand-alone story, certain plot elements span the entire series. So it's fun to see, for instance, a friend that Ben makes during one adventure continue to hang out with him in subsequent ones. With great puzzles, fun visuals, charming characters, and a unique sense of humor, these games are perfect for any point-and-click fan.

by Vince Twelve

Linus Bruckman
will most likely drive you nuts. What we have here is essentially one long logic puzzle (like the type found in a Dell puzzle book) in the form of a game. Or... I guess, more like two long logic puzzles. You see, there are two seperate games going on simultaneously, on the top and bottom of the screen, each with a distinctive artistic style and mood, but with similar gameplay. The movement of your mouse in one playing field elicits a similar reaction from the elements in the other field. So you can solve each puzzle seperately (which I did, with the aid of like six sheets of scrap paper), or by god, you can even solve them SIMULTANEOUSLY (which I have yet to do, and holy shit do I tip my hat to anyone who can manage to do that). If you enjoy head-scratchers, Linus Bruckman is definitely worth your time. If you wind up enjoying the game, click here to read a great article about its development (it was inspired by the Nintendo DS!).

by Jason Nelson

Okay, so if you can't get behind the concept of video games as art, how about video games as wackadoo abstract art? A bizarre mixture of weird, pretentious poetry, crazy-ass crayon scribble graphics, and basic old-school gameplay, the final result is a strangely hypnotizing mess. This is the one game on this list that I'd be very hesitant to describe as good, fun or even effective in achieving whatever crazed, ether-inspired goal its creator was trying to accomplish, but it's still totally worth playing, at least once. If nothing else, it is a great example of just how much potential there is within the genre for new, different and completely innovative ideas. With all the dumb-ass, creatively bankrupt bullshit there is in the gaming industry (Hooray! A FPS with World War II as its backdrop!), something like this is refreshing to see. Whether or not you find it entertaining, the fact that things like this are even being dreamt up and executed is an encouraging sign.

by Yoshio Ishii

So I was posting on my favorite message board, and I wondered why there had never been a time travel video game that actually incorporated intereaction with your past self and his or her actions. What I meant by this was, a game where you play through a level, and then later go back in time to that first level and there before you is a "recording" of your former self, performing the same actions you had performed when you played that level. If you had spent part of level 1 running around in pointless circles, there would the the old you, now a non-player character, running around in those circles. Your interaction with these "ghosts" of your former actions would make up the basis for the game's puzzles and challenges. Soon after I speculated on this imaginary game, somebody on the board posted a link to this flash game, which is pretty much a simplified version of exactly what I had in mind. In Cursor*10, as its title would suggest, you play as a cursor, and you have ten lives, each with a rigorous time limit.. The goal in each of its 16 levels is to find a staircase that will allow you to progress to the next stage. This game's gimmick is that once the time runs out and you move on to your next life, each of your previous lives' cursors will still be on the playing field, performing the same actions you had performed during that life. So, for example, if one level requires that you must push two buttons simultaneously to make the staircase appear, you'd have to hold on to one button, wait to die, and then use your next life to push the other button while the ghost of your former life pushes the first one. This makes for some extremely interesting puzzles, the likes of which I've never really experienced in a game before. This concept, fleshed out into a full-length game, would blow peoples' minds right out of their skulls. Check this out immediately.

The Simpsons Jeopardy!
by Hangoversoft

As dopey as it is, it would be dishonest of me to exclude this game from the list, since I pretty much play it all the fucking time. There is absolutely nothing for me to say about this game that you can't figure out from the title. It's a Jeopardy game with Simpsons questions. Choose your avatar (from a list of characters from the show), pick from different categories, answer questions, and die a little bit inside as you realize you've wasted your life. A fun little diversion when you have ten minutes to waste.