Sparky Clarkson's blog
By Sparky Clarkson on April 24, 2011 - 9:13am.
The most difficult part of reviewing a game is reviewing the difficulty. A few games—Super Meat Boy, I Wanna be the Guy—can uncontroversially be called hard, but the essential question is actually whether they are too hard. Since that level of difficulty depends not only on the individual player's skills and experience, but also on his values, it can be difficult to state what goes over the line. It is even harder to accurately say whether a game is too easy, primarily because most reviewers are skilled and experienced gamers, many of them drawn to the hobby during its early days when challenge was practically all a game could offer in terms of fun.
By Sparky Clarkson on March 22, 2011 - 8:21pm.
I attended PAX East, checking out upcoming games and meeting great people. That last one was a bit more difficult thanks to the enormous size of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center (BCEC), but that size made panels much easier to get into and allowed for an expanded and much nicer exposition floor. In case you weren't there, here are some impressions.
By Sparky Clarkson on March 11, 2011 - 2:01am.
I think I should start with the reason I placed the pre-order in the first place, which is that I enjoyed Dragon Age: Origins a great deal. I didn't particularly care for the combat, which suffered from having continuous time and lousy AI. However, I thought the game had some interesting ideas hiding behind its surface pageantry of turgid Tolkienism, and the writing for some of the characters (Shale!) was really great. So, when I heard Dragon Age II was coming out I placed an order, and when I heard there was a demo, I downloaded it. Having thoroughly gone through the demo, however, I decided to cancel the pre-order.
By Sparky Clarkson on February 13, 2011 - 1:02pm.
It seems like most of the people who wrote reviews of 999 thought very highly of it. I'm not sure why that was; I found the game to be a fairly tedious exercise in the repetition of insufficiently interesting puzzles. 999 creates this problem for itself because of its structure. The enforced replays that are central to 999's design and fiction ask for more from the puzzles and dialogue than they are able to contribute as art or entertainment.
By Sparky Clarkson on February 12, 2011 - 2:48pm.
A few days after the Christmas snowfall in Alabama, while we waited for the lasagna to finish cooking, we popped a copy of Disney Epic Mickey into the Wii and I played a bit of it. I got past the first, easy battle and entered the hallway, where a cutscene began. My mother, who mostly plays Snood, wanted to know why Mickey wasn't speaking. "He's always talked," she noted, and for almost anyone alive that's true. Mickey started talking in 1929, just a year after his famous appearance in the sound-synched Steamboat Willie. Sound has been a famous part of Mickey's history, so it's alienating, especially to non-gamers, to run into an essentially silent version of the Mouse in Epic Mickey.
By Sparky Clarkson on January 1, 2011 - 12:13pm.
Well, it has reached the time of year when we harvest the crop of retrospectives, the best-of and worst-of lists that one can accuse of gratuitous iconoclasm, corporate servitude, or trolling as suits your fancy. I continue my habit of not naming a "Game of the Year", nor even a "Game (that I played) of the Year" because it's a hollow designation, and (rightfully) nobody cares. That said, since it is customary to roll out some kind of year-end wrap-up, here is one.
By Sparky Clarkson on December 23, 2010 - 8:00pm.
To categorize cinematic action games as intrinsically shallow or lacking in value would be the worst sort of genre-as-pejorative thinking. Their approach to game storytelling has produced many strengths, but one central characteristic of the genre is also a critical weakness. The great artistic limitations of cinematic action games come from their disinterest in the player as a creative force.
By Sparky Clarkson on December 21, 2010 - 12:39pm.
Uncharted represents not a new kind of game unto itself but an exemplary actualization of certain values in game design. Here I intend to put a name to those values and show how they relate to the characteristics of games in this group, which I think of as "Cinematic Action" games.
By Sparky Clarkson on March 18, 2010 - 11:49am.
Jim Sterling gave Deadly Premonition a score of 10 points out of a possible 10, easily the highest score the game received among major gaming review sites. In his review, he makes it plain that this game does not deserve that score in any "objective" sense. The graphics are dated, the gameplay is limited, and its systems pay too much attention to irrelevant details. This is to say nothing of its absurd plot and characters. In comparison to almost any other game, Deadly Premonition is awful, but within the bounds of a certain kind of sensibility, that does not preclude it from also being good. Sontag identifies that sensibility as Camp, and it's an idea worth thinking about in connection to games.
By Sparky Clarkson on December 6, 2009 - 7:31am.
Last post, I mentioned that the tendency to choose segregation as a means to solve problems was a feature of many societies in the world of Dragon Age. Another, related motif appearing in many Thedan societies is the existence of a rigidly-defined social order in which a person's status and even his occupation are set at the moment of birth. To varying degrees this kind of social rigidity appears in almost every social group in the game (except the elves). Through its dialogue and plot, Dragon Age: Origins repudiates these systems, but in its mechanics it supports them.
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