Posts Tagged ‘alpha’

Premature Evaluation: Kim

Every Monday, and this Tuesday, Rob Zacny settles down with his game library in search of the next great Early Access game. This week, an adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s Kim.

An adventure game based on Rudyard Kipling’s novel Kim [official site] is almost as strange and difficult to assess as the book itself. Like its source material, it’s full of contradiction and complication, a work at once in conflict with its goals and yet more enticing because of it. It shouldn’t work, and in some ways it very much doesn’t… but then you get caught up in it and those objections are forgotten. At least for a time.

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Premature Evaluation: Kona

Every Monday, Rob Zacny braces himself for the chilly wastes of Early Access and attempts to find warmth by the side of a worthy in-progress game.

From its opening on a park-bench at a roadside rest stop in northern Quebec, Kona tantalized me with a combination of period detail and immersive-sim mechanics. Before my character, private detective Carl Faubert, even finished his cigarette, I’d made sure to stash his extra smokes, Instamatic camera, and map in my inventory. Then it was time to hop into a carefully recreated ’65 Chevy pickup and drive up a narrow ribbon of backcountry highway, while a gentle snowfall turned into a blizzard outside my windows.

Kona is a wonderfully atmospheric game, though atmosphere isn’t hard to come by when you’ve turned the blizzard effects up to 11 and marooned the player in the wastes of northern Canada. With nothing but howling winter winds and a mysteriously deserted village for company, it’s easy to get caught up in the setting and its feeling of menacing isolation.

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Premature Evaluation: Garbage Day

Keen RPS readers will probably have noticed by now that nearly every Premature Evaluation I’ve written has contained a not-terribly-secret second article in the alt-text, wherein I make a tortuous segue from the subject of the game to some matter of personal fascination to me: ancient phallic statuary, freaky Renaissance paintings, the unluckiest pirate to slap his naked bum in front of a naval officer. That sort of thing. Writing these alt-texts and seeing them being discussed further in the comments, often in much more scholarly detail, has been a true professional highlight for me. So thanks for that. This week, since it’s my last ever alt-text, it’s only right that the subject should be one inspired, not by the game of the main article, but by RPS commenters themselves: after including a glib comment about Oliver Cromwell’s bloody campaign in Ireland in one of my previous captions, one RPS reader suggested that recent research had rather redeemed him - and this (along with Pip Warr’s extensive Cromwell-knowledge) prompted me to make my way through Tom Reilly’s impressive work of investigation “Cromwell: An Honourable Enemy” which seeks to completely overturn the prevailing narrative of Cromwell’s calumny in Ireland.

Each week Marsh Davies descends like a hungry urban gull upon the reeking heap of Early Access, hoping to yank free a tasty treat without choking on a crinkled Space Raiders packet. This week, he’s been stuck in Garbage Day, a game that is nominally about replaying the same looping time period, again and again, until you piece together the mystery and escape your temporal prison. In its current form, however, it’s no more than a colourful but cramped chaos sandbox, in which you can kill and maim cartoonish inhabitants of a highly-smashable town in the knowledge that any consequences will be reset as soon as the clock strikes midnight. But does its eternal present suggest a plan for reaching a less frivolous future?

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Star Citizen 2.0’s Big Problems & Bigger Improvements

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas a game. Maybe not a lot, actually, but certainly a little. Star Citizen [official site] 2.0, as the latest alpha update calls itself, is out now and tries to expand the scope of the long-in-the-making, $100 million space game in addition to improving its core fight’n’flight aspect. So the big question is: is now the time to give Chris Robert’s record-breaking comeback a try if you’re not someone who’s already backed it?

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Premature Evaluation: The Flame In The Flood

Considering how large floods figure in the early myths of nearly every culture on the planet, they have been a surprisingly unpopular trope in Western apocalyptic fiction during the course of the last century. Despite terrible floods ravaging parts of the third world during my life-time - I particularly recall the news footage from Bangladesh in the 80s and 90s - it has really taken the advent of personal documentation with mobile phones and YouTube, as was proliferate in the flooding of New Orleans and the Japanese tsunami, to really bring home the incredible human horror of such events. So much so that even Hollywood was able to look piteously upon the reefs of corpses revealed by the receding floodwaters of Thailand’s 2004 tsunami, and ask, “Gosh, but what if it had happened to white people?” - as in The Impossible, starring Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts. Maybe such films do good, in a cynical, roundabout and kinda racist way; maybe that “what if” is really the only way to engage a complacent Western audience in sympathy with people of another skin colour. But I’m not convinced. I tend to think films like The Impossible permit a kind of callow self-pity, allowing a privileged audience to dip into the suffering of another people and come out unscathed, while at the same time reinforcing the notion that the outside world is a place full of chaos and death.

Each week Marsh Davies paddles through the polluted torrent which is Early Access and comes back with any stories he can find, or otherwise tumbles overboard and lets himself sink beneath the surging water. This week he’s been fighting against the tide in The Flame In The Flood [official site], a survival game set in a drowned world, in which a girl and her dog paddle between islands looking for resources – then eventually fail to find them and die.

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Premature Evaluation: Dead Realm

There are few areas in which I can claim to be a qualified authority, but, through the act of living in the rector’s lodge of an exceptionally picturesque but rather isolated graveyard for a number of years, I can probably cite a certain expertise in the non-existence of ghosts. As I was forced to tell the inquisitive, slightly perturbed taxi drivers who were occasionally required to drive me home up the long, rough, unlit track to the cemetery, I never experienced anything remotely supernatural while living there. And yes, the neighbours ARE quiet, ha ha. I felt I had to laugh each time, if only give some sense of assurance that I wasn’t going to axe-murder them and do something unnatural with their heavily-gnawed bones in the dark recesses of a crypt.

Each week Marsh Davies haunts the halls of Early Access, scaring up any stories he can find and/or enduring the eternal torment of the damned. This week he’s been playing Dead Realm, a spooky multiplayer game of hide-and-seek made under direction from YouTubers.

Pretty much every culture on the planet has a form of hide-and-seek and has done for thousands of years – even the ancient Greeks played it with the rules barely changing in the millennia since – so it’s a bit odd that games have largely relegated this kind of play to the modding scene. And it’s all the more surprising given what a massive entertainment spectacle it has subsequently become, largely thanks to Garry’s Mod and no small number of YouTubers, whose raucous antics wrack up cumulative viewing figures in the many, many millions. Combine this ruleset with that other video-friendly favourite, the viral horror game, throw in a few reaction cams, and you have surely created as potent an expression of YouTube gaming’s raw essence as has ever been divined. This must be at least partly the intent behind Dead Realm, a hide-and-spook hybrid, in which one ghost hunts the remaining players in a mansion, turning each of those it catches to its side, and, hopefully, noisily loosening some bowels in the process.

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Impressions: Satirical School Sim No Pineapple Left Behind

No Pineapple Left Behind [official site] is nominally about magical teachers managing a farcical school, but in reality it’s a grim indictment of an education system which prioritises funding and grades over personal development. This means that gags about casting spells to transform unruly pupils into obedient but homogeneous pineapples are about as far as the humour goes, at least in the very early alpha version I’ve been playing. In other words, if you’re here solely because of fruit-based gags, you either need to adjust your expectations or walk away now.
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