Category Archives: Alex Plays

Oxenfree vs Until Dawn, the Cage Fight

oxendawn comparison

In this horror game, a group of teenagers who kind of hate each other travel to a secluded environment with no mobile reception and only one safe passage in or out (because that’s always a foolproof plan for fun). Tension is high because they’re mourning the loss of the sibling(s) of one member of the group, and people are blaming each other for their death. Two characters kind of have a thing going on and the player has the opportunity to get them together or keep them apart. Spooky things start happening, the group gets split up, and what began as a sweet fun high school romp becomes a quest to survive the night and get safely home. Is it indie ghost story Oxenfree I’m describing, or my Problematic Fave Until Dawn?

These are actually two wildly different pieces of media, but on reflection they had enough similarities that I felt a compare-and-contrast could be interesting, if only because of the first thing they have in common: supposedly I don’t even like spooky fiction, weak soul that I am, yet I loved both of these games and find myself still thinking about them enough to write another thousand-or-so words months and even years after first picking them up. The second thing these two have in common is that it feels kind of incorrect to call either of them “horror games”: Until Dawn is more of an interactive horror movie, complete with a fully-loaded arsenal of stock characters and predictable tropes from horror cinema around which it builds its existence; and Oxenfree is more of a ghost story in the traditional sense. It’s this atmospheric shift that makes comparing them so interesting, since they both manage to be fantastically engaging and frightening despite the very different ways they build their worlds and attempt to scare the pants off you. Continue reading

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Trailer Tuesdays: Life is Strange: Before the Storm

I’ve been hearing whispers about a new Life is Strange project for a while, though I couldn’t figure out how the developers would do it. A sequel was out of the question since the ending of the game is set up deliberately to take the story in two completely different directions, so making a direct Life is Strange 2 would surely be impossible unless they wanted to make two completely different games. Lo and behold, it turns out the new Life is Strange game is a prequel, focusing not on Max and her time powers but on Chloe a few years before the events of the original story. This is, all things considered, the sensible choice, though I’m intrigued and cautiously optimistic about how it will turn out.

Jump to Lady Geek Girl and Friends for the full post!

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“This Town is Full of Ghosts!”: The Power of Atmosphere and Landscape in Night in the Woods

Night in the Woods bike

You first meet the protagonist of Night in the Woods, 20-year-old Mae Borowski, when she arrives at her hometown’s bus station after dropping out of college. She remarks that the bus station is probably the newest and fanciest building in the town of Possum Springs, all the better to give people coming through the best first impression possible. However, we soon see that the bus station, with its shiny floors and glorious sunny mural advertising prosperous life in Possum Springs, is just a façade, and as soon as Mae arrives in the town proper, we see that it’s crumbling inside and out.

As Mae explores her childhood home, the game’s use of color, landscape design, character dialogue and atmospheric music all help to build a rich, vivid, sensory picture of this once-great but slowly dying coal town, injecting so much personality that the setting almost feels like a character. Which not only makes it a fantastic backdrop for the unfolding story, but a neat metaphor for what’s going on with Mae herself. And… also a little bit of something deeper and darker.

Head to Lady Geek Girl for the full post! (big plot spoilers don’t kick in until after the video clip)

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It’s a Metaphor, Max: The Storm

lis-416

I remember the fateful day when the final chapter of Life is Strange—appropriately titled “Polarized”—came out and the internet as I knew it, even parts I hadn’t known were invested in the game, collectively exploded. The starkness of the final choice, now dubbed “save the bae vs save the bay” because you have to laugh otherwise you cry, was the main topic of discussion and/or ranting, for good reason. I’m not saying it’s a bad dichotomy to present the player with (and as I wrote about in my last post, can be interpreted to represent Max’s character development and contribute to the story nicely), it just could have been done so much better. One aspect of this, which bugs me personally the most, is the fact that the entire scenario is kind of… nonsense. Which, like last time, I’m going to try to break through using WB’s “everything that makes no sense is a metaphor” theory. Let’s take a bite out of it. Continue reading

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It’s a Metaphor, Max: Time Travel

life-strange-episode-4-max

Back in the day when we were first picking Life is Strange apart (you know me, if I enjoy something, it’s going to end up in pieces on the floor), WB came up with a theory that kind of solved everything: the game is being literary, and anything that can’t be explained or doesn’t seem to make much sense is there as a metaphor. The tornado? A metaphor for the encroaching storm of maturity, the climax of a story that has been all about Max growing from child into young adult. Time powers that came out of thin air? A symbolic tool to help Max learn that actions have consequences in the real world and she should embrace this. The reoccurring deer? Well, they tried to explain that away with the concept of spirit animals, but that filled up with casual racism pretty fast; so let’s say the deer instead represents Max’s youthful Bambi-like innocence, hence why they disappear from her shirts by the end of the game.

Let’s zero in on the never-explained time travel powers for today. The Butterfly Effect doesn’t actually mean “shit happens” and Warren’s declaration of Max being a wizard adds nothing, so let’s run with the idea that the time powers aren’t actually trying (and failing) to be a logical plot device but are in fact symbolism for Max and her character growth. Continue reading

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Cute Demon Crashers Set to Return with Cute, Comfy and Consensual Queer Content

cdc cover

I don’t normally seek out erotic visual novels, but if I did, I doubt I’d leap to describe them as “delightful.” But Sugarscript’s Cute Demon Crashers  proved the exception in both of these, by not only getting me to play a sexy dating sim but leaving me with a warm fuzzy feeling that (you’d think) would be uncharacteristic of the genre. If you look at the creators’ mission statement, though, you’ll realize that was the point:

In our team, we felt there was a need of consent and safe spaces in 18+ VNs for women, and NaNoRenO 2015 was the perfect excuse to make a game to fit those needs!

Consent and comfort is a massive, integral part of Cute Demon Crashers. College student Claire (who the player can rename) accidentally summons three incubi and one succubus who sense that she’s lonely, and over the course of the game she can bond with them and learn about them, and, if she wants to, pick one to have sex with that night. Whichever adorable sexy demon she picks, the ensuing sex scene is sweet, gentle, sometimes funny, and each demon is lovely in their own unique way. Because consent is an integral part of the development team’s mission, it’s an integral part of the gameplay: plenty of options pop up throughout the scene, with Claire’s lovers asking her if she wants to do this, or that, or stop. And indeed, a big stop button is available in the corner of the screen at all times. If you hit the button or want to back down, the demons never make Claire feel bad about it, and they do everything they can to make sure she’s physically and emotionally comfortable throughout the whole process.

There are no bad ends in this visual novel. It’s entirely about having a good time and exploring sexuality in a fun, safe, and comfortable way, with the magical love demon aspect managing to be adorable rather than skeevy like it could be. The whole game was a delightful and fun experience, which is why I’m super excited that Sugarscript has announced that they’re working on a “Side B” sequel/spinoff for the game.

Jump to Lady Geek Girl and Friends for the full post!

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Choosing What To Leave Behind: Oxenfree and Grief

oxenfree

[Ahoy mateys, spoilers abound!]

The Dead Big Brother trope is the logical opposite of the Dead Little Sister—where a DLS often kicks off manpain of some variety it also symbolises a death of innocence, as these characters are very rarely to blame for their death and their adorable, pure spectre haunts the protagonist for the rest of the story. A DBB more often symbolises a death of stability, the loss of a protective anchor that makes the world without it scary, unpredictable, and raw. This is definitely the case for the heroine of Oxenfree, Alex, whose older brother drowned some time before the game’s story begins, leaving a gaping emotional gap in her—and others’—lives. It’s awful. Alas, if only we could go back in time and stop that fatal accident from happening… Continue reading

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