They create worlds: Tunic

One of the things that video games can do magnificently is create worlds. These posts are an occasional exploration of games that I love because of where they take me.

There are video games that strive to recreate the real world in one way or another: the Grand Theft Auto series, for instance, which satirises modern America in many respects, but in others it has been pushing for a more and more intricate, realistic representation of the urban everyday of New York or Los Angeles; or Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, where a Shropshire village in the 1980s constitutes the naturalistic setting for a cosy apocalypse that wouldn’t be out of place in a John Wyndham novel; or Dirt Rally 2.0 and its rally courses that have struck fear into the heart of this gamer without ever leaving the realm of the real.

Then there are games that create realities distinctly different from our own everyday reality. The likes of Paper Beast, which puts the player inside a virtual world with its own rules and its own forms of life coming to an end, or Device 6, which thrives on the kind of worldbuilding that is possible only with the written word, or Fez, combining the two- and the three-dimensional in ways that wouldn’t be possible outside the virtual spaces inside a computer’s memory.

Tunic is firmly in the latter camp, but that doesn’t make the world it evokes any less impressive.

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I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: Pirates and the Art of Monkey Maintenance

Join us every week for a trip into the weird and wonderful world of trailers. Whether it’s the first teaser for the latest instalment in your favourite franchise, an obscure preview for a strange indie darling, whether it’s good, bad, ugly or just plain weird – your favourite pop culture baristas are there to tell you what they think.

While the Criterion Collection is basically catnip for a certain kind of film lover, not every Criterion film is an unreserved triumph, and while there are things to like about Czechoslovak New Wave fairytale Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, Matt wasn’t altogether enchanted. (What you’ll find isn’t so much a trailer as an introduction to the film that Criterion put together. Trust me: I’ve looked at the trailer that’s available, and you don’t want to see that one.)

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They create worlds: Dirt Rally 2.0

One of the things that video games can do magnificently is create worlds. These posts are an occasional exploration of games that I love because of where they take me.

Every now and then, I will play a horror game. Not often, since I don’t regularly feel the need to be scared, and because so many horror games will mainly run on atmosphere and jump scares, the latter of which I’m not particularly interested in, regardless of the medium. Still, every now and then, I want to be scared. I want to feel dread at being in a place that clearly doesn’t want me there. That is vast and uncaring, and if it is out to get me, that’s just because I am so small and insignificant, yet foolhardy enough to venture there and therefore it’s all my fault. The danger to me is incidental. I went to the dark place, so anything that happens to me while I’m there is entirely on me.

And when I’m there, I suspect that the words I will hear are “Turn, one left, don’t cut.”

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I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: Kings, heroes, villains and… spacemen?

Join us every week for a trip into the weird and wonderful world of trailers. Whether it’s the first teaser for the latest instalment in your favourite franchise, an obscure preview for a strange indie darling, whether it’s good, bad, ugly or just plain weird – your favourite pop culture baristas are there to tell you what they think.

Let’s start with the humanoid killer shark in the room: the big-screen DC movies haven’t always been all that much fun to watch, so it was quite a pleasant surprise for Matt to find out that The Suicide Squad succeeds at being just that. Who needs mopey Bats and grimdark Supes when you can hang out with Harley Quinn & Co?

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I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: Don’t give up the ghost

Join us every week for a trip into the weird and wonderful world of trailers. Whether it’s the first teaser for the latest instalment in your favourite franchise, an obscure preview for a strange indie darling, whether it’s good, bad, ugly or just plain weird – your favourite pop culture baristas are there to tell you what they think.

Do you know how difficult it is to get your hands on trailers for video games before, say, 1995? The short and boring answer is: pretty difficult. If we wanted to present a trailer for one of the Ultima games featuring the Guardian, the series’ long-time antagonist, we’d have to resort to an ultra-low resolution video for Ultima IX, and that’d be in no one’s interest. (Also, we already posted that one last week.) So instead, here’s a very loosely related trailer for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre II, which didn’t just feature one Dennis Hopper, but also Bill Johnson, who would later voice the Guardian. These days, we get the likes of Willem Dafoe and Liam Neeson in video games, but in 1992 we had to make do with the guy who played Leatherface.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #23: The Guardian

Okay, to get this out of the way first: no, this entry in our weekly Six Damn Fine Degrees feature is not about the centre-left British newspaper famous for its idiosyncratic spelling abilities. Instead, it is about the main antagonist of several instalments of the classic series of computer role-playing games Ultima, a transdimensional being of immense power bent on conquest, a villain to match the likes of Marvel’s Thanos, DC’s Darkseid or the First Evil from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Or, as some fans of the Ultima series like to call him, the big red muppet.

This was the face that emerged from my screen when I started to play Ultima VII.
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I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: Hungover cops can’t jump

Join us every week for a trip into the weird and wonderful world of trailers. Whether it’s the first teaser for the latest instalment in your favourite franchise, an obscure preview for a strange indie darling, whether it’s good, bad, ugly or just plain weird – your favourite pop culture baristas are there to tell you what they think.

1994 saw a great disturbance in computer games, as if thousands of geeks suddenly cried out in disappointment and then fell silent – most likely because their Avatar had just failed to successfully jump from one small rock to another. Back then, reloading a save game wasn’t just a matter of seconds: it was a commitment, and the more time you’d already sunk into a game like Ultima VIII, the less likely you were to stop playing, especially if you’d paid close to a hundred dollars, and doubly so if you were a fan of the Ultima series of computer role-playing games. This week, Eric wrote about his memories of his first big computer game disappointment, and it is a pain that many fellow geeks felt at the time.

This was before computer games received trailers, so instead, let’s start this week’s post with the trailer issued for its sequel, and the final single-player Ultima game – which (wait for it) turned out to be even worse in some ways. But hey, at least it wasn’t quite as much of an active exercise in masochism!

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #22: Ultima VIII

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness.

Imagine a game that set you loose to roam a mediaeval world under the influence of a shadowy religious cult, that let you discover how to bake bread or milk cows while trying to save the world just because you could, a game that was dead serious yet could look upon itself with the wryest of smiles, a game that was shot through with a sense of familiarity and wonder in equal measure.

Now imagine a game that has none of that at all.

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The Corona Diaries: Raptured away

We’ve had this before: video games can be many things, but one thing they are particularly good at is escapism. A video game can be extremely effective at taking you out of your current situation, when you need something of a getaway.

So, after replaying Journey and finding it an exceedingly solitary experience of quite limited escapist value during these pandemic times, what do I do? I go and replay Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture (2015), in which the player walks a Shropshire village that is deserted – but everywhere there are traces of the people who are gone after a mysterious epidemic has struck. Oh, and the world has ended.

D’oh!, as the kids say.

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The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Pilgrim: revisiting Journey

In 2012, a game called Journey was published on the PlayStation 3. It was pretty much the consummate indie art game: there were no puzzles, no boss encounters. Heck, you couldn’t even shoot anyone. What you could do is control your avatar, a figure in a red robe, to walk around the desert dunes. You could jump and even fly, in very limited ways. And you could sing. And as you crossed the desert, you could bump into other robed figures and communicate with them – by moving around, jumping, flying and singing. Whoever you were, and whatever you were hoping to achieve in this desolate yet beautiful landscape: you were not alone.

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