i work in this high tech future park maybe somewhere in Seattle. There is a zombie out break somewhere out there, but ya know class politics and all of that. I am homeless in this high tech park and must sleep in the park. I am paranoid and stash a shotgun inside a small circular aquarium I guess? Not sure. Regardless the night comes and I’m trying to be inconspicuous when this guy I know from New York shows up and kisses me or maybe he tries to bite my nose it is strangely pleasurable but also weirdly humane as if he’s sparring me his desires. I am then accousted by a roving band of Africans who I am frightened by but turn out to be just like me and rather safe. At some point I fish a flashlight out of the aquarium and we go through my stuff. The next day I am in a car and we’re discussing how the zombie outbreak must be like horrific in lower class circles (I know I’m homeless right?) when I am on my bike and in that same place in the park some cops knock me off my bike using water. It’s a roadblock and they’re checking folks for the virus. I am asked if I know this man and I gingerly say yes.
The enemies are symbolic to the point of parody. Their simple signifiers are so red for bad blue for good are subverted by the expressions they give: only the red ones are truly alive. The stages are small. No pretense like invisible walls or infinite skyboxes, rather the game is more like a movie set. It artfully admits to being a game. The mechanics are sparse, kill the baddies get out. Red is your enemy. The music reminds of j-pop in the best sense, the random splatters of text rarely make sense. The protagonist’s ludicrous cartoon hands bring forth images of being a demented possibly perverted cupid roaming a strange post-logical sky land.
All of this is a reason to play Lovely Planet. Let me tell you about the gameplay: its simple. You move in ways accustomed to fps players, you jump mildly like jumping flash, you shoot square arrows, the blockiness of which revels in its own laziness. Even the less refined aspects of the game are churned into irony, the game is powered by a logic only a Japan fan could know, but its fun and the game quickly breaks into flow.
The flow in turn reinforces the repetitive nature of the game. You try, you succeed, but the leaderboard tells you: you could do better. You will do better.
Its my lunch my lunch break so I take out the hospital appointment card and proceed to jettison to a far away land via motorcycle taxi. For the last few months or year I have been having consistent prickly pains in my feet and hands. I was told I needed to see a foot Doctor, but a perplexed vascular specialist. The department however says pain and the Doctor gets out a small reflex thingie bangs a few nerves and takes my blood pressure before she declares me insane and prescribes me to an anti-psychotic for schizophrenia, but I am getting ahead of myself let me tell you about my new PC.
On Saturday after class I walk into a PC shop and buy a new PC. My brain is tired of running over the various possibilities of PS4, Wii U, or PC. The PC is the right price so I buy. I have to wait. I go outside to smoke and suddenly I am worried they are cheating me. Is the PC going to be switched? Is it going to be an I7? I try to calm myself down and go upstairs. A quick look over and a tech shows me the windows specs. I am cool.
I park my electric bicycle and take a motorcycle taxi home clutching my pc. At first returning to steam is all disappointment. All the games i didn’t finish, the strangely imprecise user interface of windows. Its a let down. Plus the pc runs in 720p instead of 1080, but then I get going in steam and skullgirls shows up and lovely planet takes my time, steam becomes luxurious again. Tony comes up and i have a joystick now, plugging the joystick in I forget about my Destiny and super mario 3d world desires and just begin to game, but that’s the thing: gaming laptops are just big gameboys. The joystick is really all I need, the keyboard is an unnecessary addition, i switch to big picture mode.
There is something about someone telling you are crazy or not telling you and with confidence prescribing you to a medicine for psychotic episodes that gets you down. The confidence with which the Doctor prescribed me, her aloof air, it was the almost fascist sense of decision that annoyed me.
The PC has all these features I don’t need. They dig into me like little sickles further aggravating me. This is just a game machine, an 800 usd game machine. I am thinking of switching to Steam OS. But just a few good games is all a system needs. Its just what good games, steam is full of medieval themed fantasy adventures, sci-fi a tad more realistic than imaginative, but then Lovely Planet pulls me in. I game a for a bit forgetting about the world.
The psychologist tells me I need to reduce my stress. Apparently Japanese themed quirky fps games provide this for me. The PC contains bounties of distractions, exactly what a psychotic needs.
In the binary our society maintains (at least until “sex” is questioned enough to reveal new orientations) there is a weaker and a stronger sex, but this weakness is not the result of fortitude, rather it results from pleasure and the ability to give it. In other words the ability to be pleased in turn a sign of coercion, a weakness in a gender. If weakness comes first and hence allows pleasure is another question, but what can be ascertained from porno is quite simple: the giver of pleasure is often stronger than the receiver in terms of gender, yet when we consider the binaries strong and weak I do not see them as connected causally, rather the two are connected by correlation. Strength alone can not give pleasure, rather sadism, infatuation, obsession, neurosis, and other factors like say the texture of one’s hands or the stiffness of sexual organs comes into play. Strength is only necessary to carry through with pleasing and it can be the case the pleaser in actually is quite weak and is only able to satisfy by means of a contrivance. Weakness then is never adjacent to strength, it forms no yin yang with in gender, rather it propagates and is buoyed on a series currents that only confer the illusion of strength, as much as say a prostitute might pretend to be pleased to further a customer’s services, pleasure in fact does not need strength and can quite easily inflate itself on chimeras of weaknesses. In other words the strong might pride themselves on the pleasure given when in fact they have grown weaker, and the receiver has just merely increased their “weakness” so as to feel more. The later I think is central to sexuality, its not that “male” is strong, rather it is that “female” is
weaker. And that weakness has very little to do with the strength we hear about in male fiction, rather it is something wholly other and makes the origins of the social orientation “strong” weaker.
I was trying to avoid writing about this one because I would much rather investigate game design than possibly recommend a game, but I spent a couple days with Killzone Mercenary and a few things impressed me:
1. The levels are nice and compact, the interface is intuitive, and the mechanics work surprisingly well.
2. Regarding those mechanics:
A. Interrogations are optional stealth based side missions that work like this: you have to sneak up on a commander and then input some touch screen slashes to threaten and eventually coerce information out an enemy. The touch screen game is good, but whats more impressive is that it comes in the middle of combat hence if you’re spotted while interrogating well its probably lights out for you. This means each commander (I believe 6 a level) constitutes an optional stealth puzzle that will take a good amount of observation and a little luck to solve. There is a dart gun that can be purchased to make it easier.
B. The hacking mini-game is actually robust and interesting. It works a lot better than the one found in Deus Ex. It works like combinations of triangles appear in hexagons, you have a set of keys on the sides used to solve them. Hence it becomes a bit of a mirage, do you use do triangles opposite of each other or two clumped together to decipher the locks in such a way that you can continue picking at them. It took me a few tries to get some of these puzzles and they were particularly good in design. They feel like a good ios puzzle game in the midst of an FPS.
C. Stealth is definitely the harder route in this game. Making it through the game undetected would take a phenomenal amount of observation and work or a good dart gun or silenced weapon. The game makes you invest your money in weapons along that route that then in turn augment your skills. Hence play styles are complimented by your arsenal.
D. The money. Killzone Mercenary is about just that: money. Every kill, every piece of ammo collected, increases your cash reserves and dying takes away 50 credits for “life insurance”. However, the number of weapons and options available means I found myself consistently trying to increase my score. Violent take down reward double what a silent does, but often then alert guards meaning the rest of your potential kill combo has been reduced to 70-90 credits of value. The system works and fits rather well with the game.
3. Killzone feels like a good designer (Piers Jackson of Little Big Planet fame) combining some minimal elements that add up to an enjoyable time. Its the way the mechanics never break the magic circle, but rather enrich it that makes it worth while that said I do have a few complaints:
4. Ok sure the game has deep weapons to assist sneakers, snipers, and smg / shotgun wielding psychopaths like myself, buy at moments in the game it appears to offer you a choice, those choices would have made the game deeper as the player taking a moral side in the conflict would have been refreshing. I should have been given the chance of defecting to Helghan, executing children, etc. instead these moments come pre-planned and scripted. When the third twist occurs I was expecting some player made decisions in terms of the narrative instead I was just given a pre-planned storyline, yet I feel the game originally intended to make choice part of the story and not to so deterministically declare the “bad guys”.
5. The story line is ok. Nothing overtly memorable, choice would have made it more interesting, but again it didn’t shock me the way other games have.
6. Sometimes I thought there was a mechanic to a boss when there wasn’t a mechanic. For instance with the last boss it made sense to get into a hatch and hide inside the vechile in order to satisfy a condition to beat him, instead it turns out my damage output just wasn’t enough.
What I learned: games don’t have to be terribly original provided everything works and Killzone Mercenary is a game that primarily works. The gunplay is passable (I played on the hardest difficultly), the hacking game is great, the optional stealth interrogations are great and make you think, it is a game with in a game. And in that it shows how digital environments can and should contain a plethora of play options and not just one base assumption about what players should do. It really shows how much strength there is in finding the right fit for certain mechanics to make a game enjoyable. As an English Teacher I design new games weekly. New experiences that will allow my students to use language in a proper environment. Most of them fail. Killzone is remarkable for consistently hitting the mark with good mechanics and finally finding a hacking game worth playing, that said purchase with caution. It is intended for teen audiences looking for gunplay and action sequences. Regardless good job Guerilla Games Cambridge.
There is a dust bowl, and some brown suited Americans hollering on guitars. There are fields and a lane of swimming pools and chrome encrusted cars. There are long hairs and a pop culture so violent, each smile leaves blood trails in your bong’s wake. There is a low period where we dance and Africans rise, there is a depression, but there are computers, there is a game all black and white dots, there is a phone as serene as the fields. There is a moment in which meaning lifts up off the violent demonstrations, the abolitionist!s bombs, and lands in a screen and becomes commodified. Banderas.gif