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(Alpha v1.0.1)

Where Legends Gather

Of Red Noir and Potato Cavalry

From the start of this year’s Amnesia Fortnight, I knew I would never have enough votes to pick my favorite games since so many were interesting and unique. This is to be expected of Double Fine employees whose talent and creativity and passion is so readily evident from all the amazing game development documentaries produced by Two Player Productions.

I honestly don’t think I could ever rank this year’s prototypes regarding which I am most looking forward to since each has a drastically different style from the next and none are of a particularly similar genre. The following are my initial thoughts on the prototypes based on information and data revealed via streaming sessions and documentary episodes.

I was heavily drawn to Dear Leader because Papers, Please left me wanting more. Why you do this to me, Lucas Pope?! >:C. The visual style for Dear Leader is definitely an element of the game that I think will deserve a great deal of praise. I think a creative work with touches of satire and/or parody are most effective when core themes are consistent with the feeling of the work (i.e. George Orwell’s immaculate writing style and word choice in Nineteen Eighty-Four). Even though I have no direct experience with the gameplay, I am looking forward to playing Dear Leader because of the color scheme, overall aesthetic, and soundtrack. A game with huge room for social commentary like this will no doubt result in various interpretations from players, and I think the post-game discussion will be one of the best things after playing through Dear Leader.

I think I would tie Steed with Little Pink Best Buds as the most unique ideas to make it to the prototype stage and these two heavily stray from typical game tropes. I think I enjoyed the Steed segments of the documentary most because of the amount of reference work that the team put forth with such a limited time. The subsequent toiling over trying to polish the animation and toy with controls and camera work was really good to see, and was reminiscent of the development of AF 2012’s White Birch. The way the team tried to make the game intuitive by mitigating poor camera design so that it’s comfortable for the player was really great to see. My neck still hurts thinking back to some tiny but atrocious camera work in the Super Mario Galaxy series, and that the Steed team paid a significant amount of attention to the camera resulted in what appeared to be very smooth camera work. Steed alongside Little Pink Best Buds, being somewhat sandboxy, will probably be the games most susceptible to bugs and glitches and I hope to break the games a few times to see what they missed before the deadline. Also, horse poop.

When I first watched the pitch for Little Pink Best Buds my mind immediately jumped to Hey You, Pikachu! I was just some dumb kid who didn’t analyze games when I played it, but if I recall correctly, the voice commands were pretty clunky and unreliable. Ultimately I would have to say it felt more like a tech demo, and like Pokémon Snap, first-person Pokémon games seem…well, let’s not finish that sentence. The segment of the documentary where Brandon Dillon expressed his thought process behind dealing with language and lexicon (and trying to implement spoken/written language as system into the game) was extremely interesting to me. It’s something that I think provides viewers with critical insight into how integral problem solving is to game development (and creativity in general), and because of that I’m really, really looking forward to chatting it up with the little pink dudes. The segment in the last day where the majority of the team adds the finishing touches and watches/celebrates the final product is extremely telling of how good it feels to work and stress over something and finally see it coming along into something you’re proud of, even with its flaws and shortcomings. It was really beautiful to see that. I would have probably really enjoyed pushing the little dudes off my legs and/or flick them off, but that doesn’t detract from the core idea behind the game, and I think I’ll spend the most time toying with this game due to the heavy emphasis on writing and dialogue.

The Mnemonic pitch conjured up images of Closure. While I haven’t yet had the chance to play Closure, there are some interesting similarities between the two games and the fact that the puzzle elements revolve around light and perspective is really cool to see. Other games that come to mind when it comes to gameplay are LA Noir (which I also haven’t played) and the Amnesia series. The detective aspects of this game do have some twist, however, in that perspective is critical in order to stumble in the darkness trying to finding turkey legs. Blending that puzzle style with Frictional’s light/dark mechanic in first-person, which forces the player to consider their position or to at least light up places they think are important, makes for a nice dynamic that isn’t always explored in 3D games. A typically game solution would be to have the answer to a puzzle stand out so as to lure the player, but Mnemonic doesn’t seem to want to do that, and the black/white color palette may have been an unintended way to increase the difficulty level of the game (which is awesome): the item you need won't have a sparkle to it, and it won't glow bright red, and it won't be bright blue in a brown/gray battlefield, so you'll have to do more than just press buttons. Tim’s enthusiasm when he figured out one of the puzzles further piqued my interest in exploring the ideas that Mnemonic brings to the table, and I look forward to having my brain tickled and hopefully break a sweat trying to decipher the game.