RE:BIND

Browsing posts from: May 2020

Games Sampler For Windows 95 – Monolith & Microsoft (1995)

The year is 199X, you just signed on to your new Personal Computer Machine for the first time and finally finished the arcane incantations to get Windows 95 running. You look at your hands, clasped as they are shakily around the Computer Disc Read Only Memory device that came with your new Machine. You seat it in the CD tray, press the button, and you’re transported to a new world, a better world, a digital world.

If, like me, you grew up in the 90s with nary a console to your name, you were intimately familiar with shareware, endlessly copied to floppies (against contemporary advice regarding copying that floppy) and passed around the playground (or, in my case, church pew). But what always caught my attention was not the veritable jenga tower of small black squares that cluttered my desk and infested my youth, but the new shiniest circle on the market: The CD-ROM. This was the age of the demo disk, and Windows was in ascension, it makes sense then that Microsoft too cornered the market on sneak peeks into the murky future of PC gaming.

Enter Games Sampler for Windows 95, aka Manhattan Space Station Odyssey.

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FTL – by Subset Games
PULSAR: Lost Colony – by Leafy Games

The typical experience of FTL is exploding in space moments after you finally discover the key pivotal item to make that new experimental ship build snowball through the rest of the game. It’s brutal, unforgiving, and ultimately so bite-sized that it compels you to keep playing for hours on end. It’s the unrelenting tension of being hunted across the galaxy, barely making it from waypoint-to-waypoint while your engine huffs fumes, begging for even the dream of a full tank. The metal hull groans, pockmarked by laser burns and penetrated by the sharp teeth of a federation drone still poking through the fuselage, making you wonder if the life support systems will hold for one more desperate jump.

The criminally underrated Pulsar, on the other hand, is more about ensuring that new crew member you picked up at the space station isn’t actually a youtube troll in disguise, threatening to rip out your engine components while you aren’t looking to please his unseen audience of twelve year olds. If that wasn’t bad enough, imagine a prolonged session of hurtling through the galaxy at light speed in a boat that’s on fire, and your entire crew is cats using VOIP with webcam microphones, also, the cats are on fire. Welcome to the outer rim, Commander, otherwise known as the 11th circle of hell, Space Hell.

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Vindictus (2010) – by Nexon (gameplay footage: Dokuji)

MMORPGs, they come in so many different flavors and so many of them are very… very… protracted and dull. There’s been many attempts to shake things up by breaking the formula and mixing in various genres’ elements as tech evolves and allows for more real time combat within the traditionally auto-attack based medium, but one of the most remarkable attempts was an early one, Vindictus. Demon’s Souls had just come out the year prior, and Dark Souls was still on the horizon in 2011, the notion of having multiplayer combat in a game that featured intensive physical combat was a novel one, even more so as the underpinning of an entire MMORPG.

Yet with Vindictus, somehow, Nexon pulled it off using, wait for it, The Source Engine. Yes, a Source Engine MMORPG with exactly as much jank as one might expect of such an endeavor, but if you loved Dark Messiah Of Might And Magic are you ever in for a real treat.

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Terraria – by Re-Logic

I have a confession to make: I have never ever, ever played Terraria, not even once! But at the behest of Mx. Medea I will shortly embark on squints Journey’s End, the presumably final DLC now that the game has been around nearly as long as Minecraft.

But how come I’ve never played Terraria? It’s a good question. Back in it’s heyday my entire steam friends list was packed with nearly everyone I knew taking a dive into it, and whatever stragglers remained were quickly mopped up by the release of Don’t Starve. For me, it was hard not to see it as simply ‘what if minecraft… but 2D??‘ a notion that immediately made for a non-starter, an anti-hook if you will, given my notoriously picky tastes when it comes to games.

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RUST – by Facepunch Studios

RUST is a game that manages to continually evolve mechanically where others would simply settle for a new character or class. Every update continues to dream big and boldly go where few survival games have gone before, seemingly running uphill on its way to the summit of Immersive Sim mountain rather than settling for the comfortable plateau of competent PVP and crafting mechanics.

After receiving multiple updates adding vehicles like hot air balloons, boats, horses, and eventually a set of aircraft, the dev team has finally shifted into full gear with a modular car update now being roadtested on the staging branch. Where RUST was once a quirky Age Of Conan-meets-Fallout, it now seems dead set on pushing the pedal to the metal and achieving Mad Max-esque scenarios while leaving competitors like Fallout ’76 in the dust.

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For you, the day Rebind.io graced your screen was the most important day of your life.
But for me, it was Tuesday.
Street Fighter (1994) – Capcom / Universal Pictures

Video game movie adaptations often struggle with multiple compounding issues: what’s the best way to translate the free-form experiential nature of games and their memorable moments to the big screen, how important is the story? How can you even condense whatever story there is, regardless of it’s quality, into a one hour 40 minute run-time? Does any of this even make sense to a new audience (the people dragged to the cinema by the fans) to justify its sizable budget? Where do you make compromises? How many Bison Dollars will this film cost?

The 90s struggled with a series of ‘failed’ video game movie ventures, a fact that those who remember it so we don’t have to will never let us forget. Alongside Street Fighter there was Mortal Kombat, Super Mario Brothers, and later in the 2000s, spoiled as we were, we got gems like Silent Hill. Critically panned and usually met with lukewarm reception at best, the most these films could hope for was the long-term embrace of nostalgic fans looking for a cult classic. Street Fighter in particular is regarded as somehow tragic for the fact that it was the last film in the career of the late Raul Julia, despite him clearly having plenty of fun with his character and being the highlight of the entire production.

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In Somnio – by Jan ‘Jam’ Malitschek

There’s something really exciting about experimental titles in the indie scene that pull on lessons from film, even as it becomes increasingly difficult to classify their genre in terms of gameplay. Most would probably consider a release like In Somnio to fall under the ‘walking simulator’ or exploratory adventure category, but simplistic vernacular that reduces an experience to such crude classification fails the artistic significance of the work.

In few other mediums do we define their genre by their basic building blocks the way we do with games, it would be absurd to refer to the notion of ‘moviefeel’ or to ground our expectations of a radio show’s content by the particular microphone they used. There are exceptions to this, the found footage genre brings to mind handheld cameras or go-pros as a storytelling method, but this is comparable to how we would think about a painting: is it a watercolor, oil based? Both of these examples serve as framing for the audience, but we judge the artwork itself by its thematic substance and stylistic intent. In Somnio is an example of a game that continues to push the edges of the medium, blurring the line between interactive media and film-making, leaving us in critical territory where we find ourselves unprepared despite years of traditional games analysis.

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Wide Ocean Big Jacket – by Turnfollow & published by Tender Claws

I like demos, especially when they’re self-contained narrative slices that compliment the core game. Wide Ocean Big Jacket takes more of an excerpt approach with theirs, an appropriate choice given the narrative oriented gameplay. It’s not quite a visual novel, nor is it an adventure game, or even a walking simulator, in fact it feels more like chatting with an old friend on a nice stroll through the woods, and it has some of the more believable writing I’ve come across in an indie game lately.

So let’s step out and enjoy the nice weather with Meryl & Alan, shall we?

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