Category Archives: Alex Plays

“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

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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

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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

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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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Firewatch, A Game About Avoiding Your Problems Until They Burn Everything Down

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There are few things louder than silence. If you want to drown out guilt, grief, responsibility and other uncomfortable emotions that demand your attention and threaten to take over your life, your best bet is a trip away from society and industry where your only company is a really big forest. Forests don’t judge and demand nothing from you but mutual peace and quiet, and that quiet will form walls that keep out those pesky, hard-to-deal-with feelings. This is part of Henry’s logic, anyway, when he takes a job as a fire lookout in the Middle of Nowhere National Park, Wyoming, following his wife’s decline into early onset dementia and his inability to cope with this. He soon finds, though, that the silence of the forest is not as welcoming as it might have once seemed. Continue reading

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Character Studies: Mike “Jesus Hot Sauce Christmas Cake” Munroe

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Until Dawn does not want you to like most of its main characters. The entire prologue—the establishing character moment for most of the cast—consists of them humiliating one of their supposed dearest friends, filming it, and sending her fleeing into the snow and her eventual death. They are, at first glimpse, a bunch of assholes, except for Josh (who turned out to be the villain, go figure), Chris, and the sole voice of sympathy and reason Sam. The centre of the prank, Mike, seems to be the worst offender, but oddly enough I ended up liking him most. What happened here? Continue reading

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