Being “Out of the Office” this past week, I approached this issue of Suggested Browsing looking to find more ambitious titles; and bring them to your attention in a more ambitious way. As this column matures with each addition, who knows where we will end up. Either way, thanks to all of you for sticking along for the ride. Down to some video games. 400 Years (Scriptwelder): I recall approaching From Dust a few years ago, being drawn to it from its premise of shaping and managing the world so that the people over whom you protect and guide might prosper. However, the sheer distinction between yourself and the world around which you shaped was so strong that a constant sense of separation halted the game’s intended intimacy just past being an objective filled sand-box. That sense of distance is completely circumvented in 400 Years, as very little is actually shaped or molded by your own hand. Rather than playing a faceless god, 400 Years embodies players as an ancient, totem-esque idol. The game chimes itself into being amid traditional, tribal wood-winds and the statement “He woke up, sensing something”. Rising from what must have been an ancient slumber by an impending calamity, the idol has 400 Years to reach the other end of his island in order to spare it this approaching doom. Meditative sounds a fitting adjective for traversal in the game. Being cast of stone, there is no jumping or swimming; only the ability to move left to right and climb things. To cross bodies of water, simply wait until winter for them to freeze. Need to climb to a higher ledge? Plant a tree, and wait for it to grow tall enough to climb it. Each of the game’s puzzles enable players to feel very much a part of the world it is attempting to save; and watching that world grow as you journey only cultivates the desire to halt this calamity. The journey will last you about fifteen minutes; but if you are anything like myself, it will stick with you for the rest of the day. Try it here.
Caesar's Day Off (molkman, MajusArts): Within the past year, games have been acquainting themselves with the notion that games can tackle mature matters in a mature, whole-hearted manner. It is the whole-hearted aspect that most fulfills the bill that has been left unpaid for far too long. This is not to imply that games have never been fulfilling, or mature in the past; but when an entire segment of the industry decides it is time to take the training wheels off, incredible things happen. This does not, however, apply only to the spectrums of enjoyment of the new frontier of gaming - but also in lands quite familiar to us. I of course, mean fun. Caesar’s Day Off, an entry in the 2012 indie speed run, along with so many other recent titles take the no-hands, no training wheels stance on simply having a good time. Stepping away from my opening digression, Caesar’s Day Off places you, as Julius Caesar in a series of “normal” choices, to which you simply answer yay or nay. Sure, the game is about two minutes long, but it made me laugh out loud at the end of every decision I made. And sometimes, that is exactly what you need. If you’re looking for a good laugh that won’t take you too long to get to, try Caesar’s Day Off.
Press [X] to Give Up (Anders Børup, Bram Michielsen, Henrike Lode, Jonas Maaløe, Jonatan Van Hove, Mads Johansen, and Thomas Ryder): Press [X] to Give Up presents itself in a pretty straight forward manner. As giving up is the last thing you want to do in a video game, clearly you don’t want to press X. Instead, you fight a bull. The game will see players avoiding the bull’s charges while attempting to land five, well timed strikes. Each of your landed blows will enrage and engorge the bull to the extent that you start wondering “What is wrong with this bull?”. In return, failing to move in time will see the bull slashing at your chest with his horns; causing a portion of the screen to be obscured with each landed charge. Upon the conclusion of the fight, no matter the victor, players will realize that this duel only symbolized something much larger. Rather than spoil that, I’ll just point you here so you can play it yourself.
That wraps things up on another Suggested Browsing. Stay tuned!