Category Archives: Video Games

War Makes Men Mad: A Review of Valiant Hearts: The Great War

We do reviews differently here at Game Losers. I’m not going to bury the lede.

Is Valiant Hearts: The Great War worth playing? My answer to this question is yes. It has the most to offer if you are a fan of puzzle games or a history buff. Full disclosure: I am both. But, most importantly, it has a well-crafted (and heartbreaking) story that is accurately framed by its historical context. It’s relatively short—it can take anywhere from four to eight hours to complete depending on your skill with solving puzzles and interest in collecting the optional historical items scattered throughout the game. At $14.99, it’s an excellent value and, if it’s on sale for any amount less than that, even better. 1)I picked the game up from XBL for 66% off.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about why it’s a game worth playing.

Continue reading War Makes Men Mad: A Review of Valiant Hearts: The Great War

Notes   [ + ]

1. I picked the game up from XBL for 66% off.

720°: You Either Skate Or You Die

Sports games have come a mighty long way since the 90s. Editor-in-Chief Roger Burton can tell you that much—he knows way more about the major sports game franchises than I could ever dream to learn (or want to learn, but that’s another story).  So I was pretty surprised when we were talking about NES games and he’d never heard of 720°. I mean, really? How do you know so much about sports and games and everything in between but not this? Come on, Burton, step it up. So anyway, now that I’ve proven that I actually know a sports game thing that Roger doesn’t know, I want to share with you all a little bit about this game.

And, of course, why it terrified me as a kid.

720flyer
The Ultimate Aerial Experience!

So, what horrors lurk beyond this gnarly facade? Well…admittedly, not that many, but I still feel weird whenever I think about this game.

Continue reading 720°: You Either Skate Or You Die

Race in the Wide Worlds of Fire Emblem

-Notice: This article contains unmarked spoilers for Fire Emblem on the Game Boy Advance and Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance for the Nintendo GameCube.-

“Sub-human? Ha! What arrogance it takes to coin such a name! You think yourselves the only ones worthy of the name ‘human,’ and so we laguz must be beneath you? And thus you call us ‘sub-human.’ We are less than human to you, is that it?”

“I’m sorry…I don’t know any other name for you. If I have offended you, I apologize. What should I call you? Laguz? Would that be more appropriate?”

“Huh? You show manners? How odd. I like that. Now, you are…Who, exactly?”

“My name is Ike. Ike of the Greil Mercenaries.”

I recently finished a playthrough of Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, my first time going through it in at least seven years. Though I knew it was a game that wasn’t afraid of tackling delicate issues, they hit a lot harder when I was old enough to really realize what they were talking about. Fire Emblem games have a reputation for depicting how fucked up royal families are—in one, a prince clandestinely murders his father so that he can become king and in another a king arranges to have his prepubescent son assassinated.

But that’s all par for the course and royal family fuckups aren’t necessarily things we deal with on a daily basis. What about race, though? Continue reading Race in the Wide Worlds of Fire Emblem

The Sims 4: #ThankYouBaseGame

By Head Editor Christina Rivera

As most of my friends and loved ones know, The Sims is a very important video game series to me. I’ve been playing God to tiny pixel people since I was a preteen and got the first game for Christmas. I’ve achieved more lifetime wishes and aspirations for my Sims than I’ve even attempted to in real life. So, naturally, I was thrilled to follow news about The Sims 4 until release day, and even threw a mini temper tantrum on Twitter when I realized that, in my throes of passion, I’d forgotten to preorder the game entirely. Still, though, I got my game four days later–not bad for someone who rarely cares about getting games close to release! So, naturally, days after getting my grubby little paws on it, I’ve been playing TS4 constantly.

 

And it’s…weird, but not for the reasons you’d think. Continue reading The Sims 4: #ThankYouBaseGame

The Flight of the Red-Tail

Recently, there’s been a lot of negative publicity surrounding video games and the video game community. A small but very vocal and very cruel subset has wildly tried to quash any criticism of their beloved AAA games, as the reaction to Anita Sarkeesian’s most recent video has proven. 1)To say nothing of the weeks of JonTron shoving thirty spiders’ worth of feet into his mouth.

I considered making this week’s piece a continuation of that very important discussion. Considering women actually dominate the gaming population, it’s critical to consider how women are portrayed in video games. 2)“BUT MOBILE GAMING DOESN’T COU”Quiet, you. But I decided to take a different approach. There are so many people more qualified than me that are already having that discussion. What I can do is prove that video games still have great potential to contribute great things to the world.

In the game FTL: Faster Than Light, you play as the crew of a small ship traversing the dangers of space in order to deliver an important data packet that swing an intergalactic war. It is a wildly difficult game that I have never beaten and the game ends with the destruction of your ship. You make many choices along the course of the game that affect your crew, your ship, and the overall story. No two games are the same.

I wrote a short story based on one playthrough of the game. The story, titled “The Flight of the Red-Tail,” is below. It clocks in at just over ten thousand words and it is an example of how video games, no matter how simple they may be or how small an audience they reach, can inspire. It’s important to criticize video games where we can but it’s just as important to celebrate them where we can as well. Enjoy. Continue reading The Flight of the Red-Tail

Notes   [ + ]

1. To say nothing of the weeks of JonTron shoving thirty spiders’ worth of feet into his mouth.
2. “BUT MOBILE GAMING DOESN’T COU”Quiet, you.

Super Smash Sisters

In the first Super Smash Bros. game, released in 1999 for the Nintendo 64, there was, out of twelve playable characters, just one woman: Samus Aran. 1)I’m excluding characters like Jigglypuff that are typically perceived as female but aren’t humanoid. That’s 8.3%. In Super Smash Bros. Melee, released in 2001 for the Nintendo GameCube, the total characters goes up to 25 (if we count Zelda and Sheik, who we’ll call male, as separate) and the women went up to 3 with the addition of Princess Peach and Princess Zelda. We’re up to 12% now!

Super Smash Bros. Brawl for the Nintendo Wii upped the playable characters to 39 (again, counting characters that can change mid-battle as separate) but only added one woman: Zero Suit Samus. Seeing as Zero Suit Samus and Samus Aran are exactly the same person, just with different gear, I choose not to count her as a “new” character. That brings the percentage down to a paltry 7.9%. Yikes.

Things are changing, though. Pardon me for throwing more math and numbers at you, but out of the eleven new characters that have so far been announced for Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, seven are women. 2)This counts Wii Fit Trainer, Villager, Mii Fighter, and Robin, whose gender can be selected by the player. That right there is a whopping 63.6%. So, out of the 36 playable characters confirmed so far, and counting Zero Suit Samus and Power Suit Samus as separate characters because the game insists  we’re now at 30% of the game being women. 3)ZSS offers a lot of pros and cons. It’s good to see she can kick ass without her Power Suit but does her Zero Suit have to be so…form-fitting? Not a majority but it’s getting closer to the percentage of people in the real world that identify as women.

Okay, we’re done with numbers now. Here’s what all that means: they know. Masahiro Sakurai, Nintendo, Bandai Namco, everyone who’s working on this game knows. They know that making everything pink and gendered isn’t the cheat code to make games women want to play. Who knew! Continue reading Super Smash Sisters

Notes   [ + ]

1. I’m excluding characters like Jigglypuff that are typically perceived as female but aren’t humanoid.
2. This counts Wii Fit Trainer, Villager, Mii Fighter, and Robin, whose gender can be selected by the player.
3. ZSS offers a lot of pros and cons. It’s good to see she can kick ass without her Power Suit but does her Zero Suit have to be so…form-fitting?

Flappy Bird & Kim Kardashian: Hollywood Will Save Video Games

Special to Game Losers by Greg L. Mercer

CHAPTER I: IN WHICH THE INTERNET WAS A WEIRD KID GROWING UP

Much like video games, the Internet was a weird kid growing up.

A lot of people spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to help it gain legitimacy. The Internet was a goofy place, with entire databases of surreal animated videos, basement-dweller rants, and fan sites for obscure bands, movies or shows. Not to mention, the barrier for entry was a high monthly fee, on top of the $500-$1500 for a computer with a modem. Lots of houses had one to help with your homework and the household accounts, but not nearly every home, and not nearly to the point of usefulness we have today.

Then, in 2005 (we can argue on the exact year but that’s what it feels like to me), the Internet went from being Something About Half Your Friends Have into Something It Would Be Really Weird Not To Have. Mind you, this is only two years before the first iPhone release (which, itself, caused a similar shift re: smartphones around 2012-ish).

What happened? I like to think it was YouTube. Specifically, the Lonely Island “Lazy Sunday” Digital Short. I don’t mean to say all of the sudden people bought millions of computers to watch this video, but I think it cemented YouTube as “the place to watch videos, and no matter how many millions of people watch it, the site doesn’t go down.”

That was a massive turning point. The Internet was finally able to sustain mainstream attention, and it hasn’t stopped since. Ubiquity. It’s something people think of as a public utility, like phone lines and electricity and water. The Internet used to be Weird, and now it just Is.

How did the Internet get legitimacy? How did we get to a point where Internet access is something everyone is just assumed to have? What the fuck does any of this have to do with video games? I’m getting to that. Stay with me, I promise we’ll get there.

Continue reading Flappy Bird & Kim Kardashian: Hollywood Will Save Video Games

On Stopping to Smell the Venomous Alien Roses

Special to Game Losers by B. Pearlstein

About a month ago, I bought Starbound in its beta stage through Steam Early Access. It’s a game that’s been called a Terraria clone, not at all unreasonably: you explore procedurally generated 2D worlds, collect materials, and use them to craft survival gear and build shelters. The central thematic difference is that Starbound’s narrative and aesthetics are distinctly sci-fi, with players traveling from planet to planet. I haven’t played Terraria, so I went into Starbound with an interest in the premise but no idea of whether or not I’d enjoy the gameplay.

It turned out that I did, probably more than was good for me. On several occasions, I tried to play “a little” Starbound at night, and stayed up until morning. I’ve explored the mod forum and downloaded a few mods, giving me a wider range of planet types and craftable objects, but that was after I was already thoroughly hooked.

One evening, though, after I had played about 35 hours of Starbound, I realized I wasn’t really feeling excited or entertained. There’s a turning point that occurs for me, and I suspect for others, after I’ve played a game I love for a long enough period of time. The gameplay I used to find so compelling begins to feel like going through the motions in a joyless series of chores. The only way I’ve ever found to reverse this is to put the game aside and return to it months or even years later, when I’m no longer jaded to it. This is a big problem with games that are designed to be played daily, like the Animal Crossing series or virtual pet websites, because the player is punished for inactivity with negative consequences in the game world. The longer you go without playing, the worse things will be when you decide to play again – which can discourage players from returning at all.

The gameplay genuinely is repetitive, owing to the fact that the player is encouraged to spend a very large amount of time hunting and mining. Like Terraria and Minecraft, Starbound places heavy emphasis on mining the land for mineral resources, depleting them, and moving on to repeat this in a new area. Manifest destiny. Starbound takes this a step further: you can essentially empty out whole planets, and this is presented by the gameplay as an effective strategy. The backstory provided for the human race in Starbound states that the nations of Earth went to war over the limited resources in their solar system, which almost feels like a sneaky criticism of the game’s structural principles. But then the problem was made irrelevant by a giant space tentacle hitting Earth until it blew up. Oh, well. Continue reading On Stopping to Smell the Venomous Alien Roses

Tips & Tricks – The Interview

The just-over-8,000 words below contain the full texts of the interviews I conducted with the four people I worked with on Wednesday’s grandiose Tips & Tricks oral history. Though much of it was quoted in that piece, a lot of it just plain didn’t fit. You’re sure to find something new and interesting below. Again, I would like to thank them all from the bottom of my heart. Continue reading Tips & Tricks – The Interview

A Comprehensive Oral History Of Tips & Tricks – The #1 Video-Game Tips Magazine

It’s high time to set the record straight.

A Wikipedia query for Tips & Tricks does not lead to an individual article on the magazine, which ran for one hundred and fifty issues across just about fifteen years, from 1993 to 2007. A spinoff magazine that had been published concurrently, the Tips & Tricks Codebook, continued on a bi-monthly schedule until February of 2011. The query leads here, the “Other magazines” subheading of the article for Larry Flynt Publications. 1)At the time this article was published, this was true. However, T&T now has its own article, here. This article is cited. You’ve got to wade through several NSFW titles before getting to the paragraph dedicated to T&T. Though it is true that LFP published T&T, it’s a magazine that deserves more than to be buried under piles of Hustler.

T&T was and, in all honesty, still is my favorite magazine ever. As someone who deeply appreciated both video games and the work that went into making them from a young age, I held a deep respect for this magazine focused on picking these games apart. Unlike Electronic Gaming Monthly or Game Informer, which typically relegated cheat codes and strategies to a couple of pages in the back of the magazine, Tips & Tricks was all about the codes and strategies. Continue reading A Comprehensive Oral History Of Tips & Tricks – The #1 Video-Game Tips Magazine

Notes   [ + ]

1. At the time this article was published, this was true. However, T&T now has its own article, here. This article is cited.