Tag Archive: Light


never alone title

When times are at their worst, often that is when evil will choose to strike. Where blizzards never cease to bellow their wintery wilds and frostbitten winds tear and rage at everything in its path, a young girl ventures away from the safety of her starving village to see what could be causing the devastating weather. The path ahead of her is laden with trials and dangers from the deadly jaws of polar bears to strangers ransacking her village to sinking ice caps and tumultuous waters. With naught but her courage and her new found arctic fox companion, they traverse the dangers together with the aid of helpful ancient spirits to see what lies in wait at the end of the blizzards roar.

never aloneNever Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna), developed by Upper One Games, is so much more than just a beautiful puzzle/platformer – it is a collaboration of gaming and Native Alaskan folklore told through an interactive experience. The game, however, was not simply a product of devoted research and interviews; but rather had direct involvement with over 40 Native elders, storytellers and community members of the Iñupiat people creating not only an atmospheric and endearing gameplay experience but also including an informative documentary on the culture.

Never Alone allows players to take control of both the young Iñupiat girl, Nuna, and the arctic fox either by switching between the two in single player mode or allowing (and encouraging) playing with a friend through local co-op. The playstyle of each character is different enough to keep things interesting and add an extra layer to the puzzles as each cannot always reach places via the same methods. Nuna has the ability to push objects, climb ropes and use a bolas weapon to break through certain obstacles; whereas the fox has a much better jumping and climbingnever alone 3 ability, can fit in small tunnels and also communicate with ancient spirits that aid the two in their difficult journey for survival. The controls are smooth and easy to grasp as Nuna and fox jump, climb, shatter ice and branches, and out maneuver creatures that wish for their demise, though that is not to say there aren’t times where what the characters should do and what they actually do differed (usually leading to a swift, and slightly heart-wrenching death on one part or the other). Luckily, check point saves occur fairly often so there is not much backtracking to be done if a more difficult or timing induced area is encountered.

Aesthetically, the game is absolutely gorgeous. From the airbrushed art style of the main game to the simple sketches of the story’s cutscenes, it all comes together fluidly. Faded out and cloudy edges of the screen give sense of the all encompassing blizzard surrounding everything while soft and vivid tones accentuate danger and safety – a subtle hint that speaks volumes. The overlying story itself is narrated in the Native Iñupiat language almost giving a feeling of listening to a folk tale by the light of the fire as the images come to life in front of your very eyes.

never alone 4Never Alone offers players a unique chance to experience a culture so very few know much about and does so in an artistic way that really brings everything to life. Available on PC and next gen consoles, it is certainly worth at least one playthrough to experience the beauty and artistry of the game and story (although perhaps not for its full price tag). The game may take a couple of hours to 100% and finish with about 30 minutes of documentary unlockables to be viewed as well either during the playthrough or afterwards. For those with Playstation Plus, Never Alone is free to download for the month of April; so do yourself a favor and spend a little time with this one. Between the endearing affection and trust between Nuna and the fox and the overall passion the developers imbued within every moment, it truly speaks for itself.

never alone 2

 Always remember that no matter what happens, you are never truly alone.

Child-of-Light-logo

Listen closely child, to this story of a land; a place called Lemuria, a landscape grand. Left forsaken to darkness by a queen of the night; left with but one beacon of hope – a princess of light. Twisted forests to caves, to the depths of the sea; the crown and her companions would fight so bravely. To recover her kingdom, her stars, moon and sun; but for now, listen child, as her story is just begun…

Within this vast world of gaming there are numerous qualities that stand out among others: graphical prowess, innovative gameplay mechanics, in depth multi-faceted storylines or even exquisite and hard to forget soundtracks. Sometimes games possess many of these qualities among so many others all in one pristine package and other times many fall just short in one or more areas. Ubisoft’s newest release Child of Light, may not be a trailblazer of these factors by most people’s standards; however, it shines brightly through those clouds of violence, gunfire, and blood and introduces players to a spectrum of elegance that is not often found.

In this fairy tale RPG, players find themselves in control of a young girl named Aurora who awakens in a land unlike anything shechild of light dialogue has ever seen. With bright red flowing hair held under a protective crown and a sword at her side, she sets off to discover this mysterious land of Lemuria and find a way back to her home, back to her ailing father. As she aids many passerby and villages, she receives more than just simple items and trinkets to help along her journey – she finds companions and friends whose worth becomes more than words can say. From a rhyme challenged Jester with a beautiful voice to a love-struck mouse archer always eager to impress, the cast leaves behind the generic party makeup that so often accompanies RPGs for an endearing cast of creatures whose intentions almost carry an air of innocence. With her friends, Aurora explores the lands ever searching for the light that was so cruelly taken away from the Lemurians and fights to gain back what was once taken.

One of the most noticeable aspects of this title lay in its enchanting art style. Beautiful hand drawn characters and landscapes almost replicate floating through a dream. Contorted trees and rocks shadow in the forefront and the endless backgrounds go on for what looks like miles giving a wondrous depth to the 2d sidescrolling fantasy.  Additionally, the story and dialogue is not told in a usual format, but rather in an almost shakespearean-esque round of poem and lyric from the narrator’s interludes to the characters banter back and forth. It is an unusual and surprising element at first; and while it may cause some to lose focus of the story trying to keep up with the rhyme, it also adds a variance of color to its own atmosphere. It just feels right.

child of light combatGame play wise, the player primarily controls Aurora either on foot or by the most welcomed method of flying around the overworld areas. In addition to Aurora, players also control a small firefly of light named Igniculus, who can alternatively be played by a second person. Igniculus has his own abilities both in and out of combat which consist of acquiring items and some chests that may be out of reach for Aurora or simply hazardous to navigate to as well as temporarily stun/blind enemies for safe passage. Once combat is initiated (either by a frontal or rear encounter) the screen and tempo changes to a new format. It is a mix of turn based and real time combat that truly is something simple and easy to grasp yet exceptionally fun to master at the same time. During battle, two party members may be on screen at the same time (along with Igniculus) and a small action bar appears at the bottom of the screen to show both party and enemy placement along the timeline. Each attack or defensive tactic has its own cast time within the action window and it goes the same for both friend and foe. Attacks and spells may also be interrupted by either side and alternatively may also revert the target further back on the time line, which in turn opens the door to the true strategy of it all. On top of planning attacks and counters and watching the enemy, Igniculus also plays a part via healing party members, slowing down enemy progress along the time line and even collecting small replenishments of hp, mp and his own light source.

In addition to exploration and combat there is also a trove of treasures, stat boosts and confessions to find scattered around the world map to achieve that 100% completion mark. Going even deeper, each character has their own unique three tiered skill tree so they may upgrade their active and passive abilities as the player chooses up to a three star basis determining power and effectiveness. A somewhat simple crafting system is also in place involving certain gems called Oculi. These oculi have varying degrees of strength and up to three can be attached to each character to boost elemental attack, elemental resistance, evasion, hp or mp depending on the slot they are assigned. In essence, these factors allow the player freedom to build the characters as they wish and utilize them to the best of their ability.child of light sea monster

Overall, Child of Light is a game that takes many familiar RPG elements and places them into an atmosphere that is somewhat unexpected yet exquisitely enchanting. The story may hold a simple premise, yet plays out much as it is first introduced: as a bedtime story told to a child awaiting their dreams. It is a work of art both in visual allure as well as written word, and should be taken in as such. Taking around 10 hours to complete the story (and perhaps additional to find and acquire everything missed once complete), it is well worth the price and can be played on PC, PS4, PS3, Xbox360, Xbox1 and in the near future the PS Vita as well.

So when the time comes, will you step into the world of Lemuria?

Will you listen to this story?

…I think you should.

“If you can see art in everything, than you are an artist”

unfinished swan

“Please wake up!”

Once upon a time there lived a king who built a kingdom of white. He worked long and hard to perfect his kingdom as he saw fit, but soon found his interest drawn to creating a family of his own. Leaving much unfinished, he devoted himself to his wife and unborn son; however, his days of bliss were short lived and he swiftly became consumed by his work once again, fated to be alone.  It is in this realm of white that a young boy chases after the figure of a white swan – one of his mother’s treasured unfinished paintings, and the one he chose to carry with him to the orphanage. It is here that the boy will see things in an entirely new light; here where his adventure begins.

The Unfinished Swan, by indie game developer Giant Sparrow, is all about exploring the unknown. Viewed through a first person perspective, the game presents the player with a vision of white in its first active moments. Using either the Dualshock 3 controller or the Playstation move, players aim and send splotches of ink or black paint towards the endless sea of white, slowly revealing the hidden scenery and paths to travel. Small golden hints can often be found to help guide the player along the proper path; these hints may come in the form of golden swan footprints, golden sections of statues via a ring on a hand or a horn of a unicorn, or even golden letters signifying the page of a storybook.

theunfinishedswan

What is truly incredible about this title is the sense of awe and accomplishment that quickly encompasses the player. Throwing bits of black ink over a white canvas, creating as full a picture or as necessary a path as possible; the progress seen is incomparable. Whether it has been 10 minutes or an hour, turning around to look behind reveals a landscape you never realized existed. A bit of paint here, a means to get to golden footprints there and a touch of curiosity over on the other side leads to an artistic masterpiece all stemming from simple exploration.

The accompanying soundtrack adds to the perfect storybook tale as well as the player travels deeper into this color deprived land and story. From dark hallowing tones to medieval sounding harpsichord melodies, the game personifies the feelings of wonder, curiosity, amazement and even fear. Music so appropriate it is hard to discern where it begins and ends as the player is drawn even more into the experience.

As the game continues, black ink no longer becomes the only tool at hand. As shadows, light and darkness all take turns throughout the landscape, the player will be able to cast water droplets and create vines to traverse, throw light to remain safe and create 3D objects in which to stand upon.

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Although the game play is simple enough at the start, the later elements introduced transform this title from mere art and exploration to a piece of the puzzle genre; often giving the player much freedom in solving the challenges ahead. In addition to discovery, there are also various items to collect which can be used to purchase upgrades and enhancements.

The PS3 exclusive, The Unfinished Swan is a title that I have not yet completed entirely, yet the demo alone was enough to captivate and enthrall me. Although in a possibly simpler and unique way, the game already seems to liken itself to others of its caliber such as Journey or Ico. A fantastical journey of discovery and beauty, it is an experience that people should allow themselves.

So will you?

“Don’t be afraid.”

First impressions are lasting, or so people like to say.  That isn’t always the case though.  Maybe you are the hardcore “team whoever” all the way or maybe you like to change your mind and switch sides every so often. In all actuality, the characters portrayed through movies, games, shows, and books aren’t always as black and white as we might assume, and oftentimes our opinions of them will change throughout the experience and occasionally long after it is over.

Take for example my recent watching of the anime Death Note. The beginning of the story slants you in the favor of Light and his shinigami Ryuk.  His new method of justice sounds like a good plan: discretely eliminate criminals as a means of creating a new order of peace throughout the world.  You cringe as the great detective, L, comes onto the case and nearly break a sweat as L and Light craftily out-wit each other at every turn knowing no bounds.  As more characters emerge some thoughts instantly come to mind about them: Misa is cute, Matsuda is an idiot, Near and Mello are just trying to copy L, Takada is a worthless waste of air…the list goes on.  However, I have come to find that my impressions of some characters changed as I watched the show and have even more so now that I have finished and let everything sink in.  (*warning: potential spoilers ahead*)

I won’t lie, I was in total support of Light and Misa and the entire Kira gig they had going on for a good while.  The ingenious twists between Light and L left me stunned at times and yet deep down I knew that I really wanted Light to be caught for sure.  When fate finally catches up with L, I am sure many people felt that the introduction of Near and Mello was ridiculous; but they are L’s successors even despite the hatred between them.  It was only as everything began to finally unravel that I realized what side I was really cheering for and that my true favorite characters of the series had significant, although much smaller, parts in the entire ordeal.

Since I alluded to it already, the character that really stood out for me in this series was one of L’s successors: Mello (a.k.a. Mihael Keehl).  Sure, he only came onto the scene for the last ten or so episodes but the stylish, arrogant, chocolate-addicted, mafia boss really had more going on then was let on.  At first he was just a replacement for L, but with his hatred of Near he swiftly went off in his own direction to stop Kira by his own means.  Now, instead of it being the Japanese police versus Kira, it became the Japanese Police versus Near versus Mello – all in a three way race to catch and destroy Kira.  His ingenious plans soon came to pass and while they seemed to only cause more trouble, without them many future actions would not have been able to take place. Where L and Near lurked in the shadows watching and waiting, Mello went in guns blazing with bold statements and actions.  His efforts, although initially meant only for his own success to conquer Near and defeat Kira first, truly aided in the completion of the investigation for all parties involved.  His closest friend, Matt, stayed by his side and aided in their final plan to unveil Kira, even though it would ultimately cost them their lives in the end.

While this change of opinion may not happen in every show, game, or whatever when it does perhaps it stands to tell us something.  First impressions make lasting impressions, but that doesn’t mean they have to stay that way.  🙂

Death Note

Do you know shinigami love apples?

For those who may not know: a shinigami is a god of death and every god of death is given a death note (a black covered notebook) of which to write down the names of humans to die; a way of extending their own lives and maintaining the overall balance of life.  A fact that may not be so surprising is that shinigami aren’t exactly known for their upstanding moral attributes and when boredom strikes one particular shinigami named Ryuk, he decides it would be a fun idea to “accidentally” drop a Death Note into the human world for someone to pick up.  That particular someone just so happens to be a young man named Light Yagami – a perfect student readying for college with superior intelligence, good looks, and popularity.  Light quickly understands and accepts the Death Note and Ryuk; the more he learns, the more power he realizes is at his disposal.  He then concocts a plan that will change the face of evil within the world. He decides he will become Justice.

However, the Death Note is not merely a blank notebook where anything goes – there are strict rules and warnings which must be followed – no exceptions.  These rules are written in the worlds most popular language – English – so that the greatest percentage of people would be able to comprehend.  A few of these many rules include:

1. The human whose name is written in the note shall die.

2. The note will not take effect unless the writer has the person’s face in their mind when writing his/her name.  Therefore, people sharing the same name will not be affected.

3. If the cause of death is written within 40 seconds of writing the person’s name, it will happen.

4. If the cause of death is not specified, the person will simply die of a heart attack

5. After writing the cause of death, details of the death should be written in the next 6 minutes and 40 seconds.

6. The note shall become the property of the human world, once it touches the ground of (arrives in) the human world.

7. The owner of the note can recognize the image and voice of its original owner, i.e. a god of death.

8. The human who uses this note can neither go to Heaven nor Hell.

While many other rules are written, even shinigami do not know everything of which the notebook is or is not capable of.  Information on the shinigami themselves (such as how to kill a shinigami) are for the most part left unknown, even to them.

Suddenly, the world begins to notice a trend of killings and this mysterious, un-named murdered becomes known as Kira (due to its similarity to the English word “killer”).  Kira does not just randomly choose his victims but rather kills only criminals. This becomes his own way of purging the world of evil; setting an example for others of what happens to those who stray off the path of righteousness.  Kira is unique from most serial killers though in numerous ways; the most significant difference being that the only thing Kira needs in order to kill is a name and a picture.  It is soon realized that only criminals who have been reported on the news or internet are being killed. People fear what they do not understand and as no one knows of the death note (and even if they did it would only instill more fear), this information sends people into a panic to protect their true identities at any cost or else risk becoming the next victim. The Japanese police and the American FBI are soon given the assignment of stopping Kira under the direction of a perfect detective known only as L; a detective who has yet to ever fail at solving a case.

It becomes a battle of the masterminds where one hesitant moment can mean life or death.  As soon as the task force has Kira nearly within their grasp some new, ingenious angle presents itself derailing the investigation even further.  It is a fast reeling game to see which side will reach the finish line first: should Kira be captured he is evil, should Kira prevail he is justice.  As time goes on and Kira’s killings continue, crime rates around the world drop significantly and far less criminals roam the streets. This is the making of a bright, new world…isn’t it?

So consider these questions:

Is obtaining peace through any means really worth the cost?

Can murder ever truly be justified?

A world of black and white could easily see an answer to these questions; but this world we live in, captured in shades of gray, must preserve life until its very last.  With that final understanding – no matter what good may have stemmed from Kira’s domination – Kira must be stopped.  The question that exists now is if he can…