This is it, people, this is enormo-spoilers. Abandon hope all ye who enter here.
It's another Fight Club game, like At A Distance. A game you can't talk about. A game it's even dangerous to acknowledge the existence of. Don't go spoiling it y'hear. Don't go causing no bother, now.
“Hey, have you played–”
“FECKING SPOILED NOW INNIT WHY DONCHA JUST TELL ME WHO KILLED LAURA PALMER AND THROW KEYSER SOZE INTO THE FECKING BUNDLE”
No one wants to spoil a good half of Starseed Pilgrim, which is about learning and discovery. Just half, mind you. The other half, which is just as important, is mastery.
Those reviewers brave enough to take on the task of communicating something about the game without, well, communicating something about the game become linguistic contortionists. Adam Smith tries on “Starseed Pilgrim throws its abstractions into the player’s face like a glass of cold water,” and Chris Priestman offers “a game that parallels the act of scribing, but replaces the words with symphonic gardening,” Phill Cameron suggests the “revelations cascade with the speed of a glacier” while the game “smirks and inverts”. John Teti hopes to motivate you with “Dirt is only boring until you plant some seeds. Then it becomes an experience.”
Don't worry, I'm going to end up performing the same kind of trick as these fine fellows. I'm going to share my experience of Starseed Pilgrim without explaining anything whatsoever.
Let me tell you about the five stages of Starseed Pilgrim.
Richard Perrin's first-person exploration/puzzle game Kairo (available on Steam tomorrow) is a great example of environmental narrative taken to the extreme, because it tells a story eschewing words almost completely.
Yet after browsing reviews and impressions pieces, I discovered some players had trouble figuring out the story.
At The Border House, Michelle Ealey wrote: “After my first playthrough of Kairo, I was frustrated. I didn’t get it; I really didn’t know what had happened and why.”
John Walker at Rock Paper Shotgun wrote that "your purpose in Kairo is never explained" and "quite what Kairo is about entirely eludes me".
And Andrew Plotkin: “If I were to level a charge, it would be that the game world never really coheres, beyond the visual level. An adventure can set up its narrative drive through discovered texts and journals (old gag though that is). Or it can build a narrative out of its artistic details, the discovered connections and implications hidden in the visual world. Or this structure can come from the gameplay itself -- the connections you discover between the puzzles and mechanisms that make up the game. By solving, you learn what it's for.”
I'm going to let you decide. In this image-heavy post, I'm going to take you through my deconstruction of Kairo's story, start to finish. This means spoilers, of course. Massive spoilers the size of the Death Star.
Someone had contaminated Slackjaw’s still.
Rather than killing many of his gang outright, those who had quaffed elixir from the poisoned still were now Weepers, quarantined in a makeshift gaol. The Bottle Street Gang was crippled, which was why Slackjaw turned to me for help. Something had happened in Dr. Galvani’s place and he didn’t have anyone available to follow it up.
Slackjaw was not aware that I was the one who had poisoned his still. Neither was he aware that his bodyguards were unconscious, sheltering under cobwebs in the darkest corners of the distillery.
I delivered revelation with my knife and wrote the truth across his chest. He gasped and staggered back, but I left him no time to respond. A second revelation proved too much for him and he collapsed to the floor.
As I took my leave, none of the gang members in the main hall noticed anything was wrong. Outside was a different story. The Weepers had escaped from their prison and, with surprising enthusiasm, had taken up the task of attacking and infecting their jailers.
The Bottle Street Gang profited from misery every day and terrorised the ordinary people of Dunwall. And so I killed them.
Red light floods the auditorium. An electric guitar wails as a dark, hypnotic mantra plays out on a double bass. We see the characters speak but we can’t hear what they say; we are permitted to observe but not understand. It’s dirty. The scene blisters with sin and the music reaches out and absorbs the audience. We are all sinners now. We are complicit.
I watched Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me twice in the same week but most critics hated the film. It was booed at Cannes. Twenty years on, I still remember my time in the Pink Room.
“To some the sermon simply brought home the fact that they had been sentenced, for an unknown crime, to an indeterminate period of punishment. And while a good many people adapted themselves to confinement and carried on their humdrum lives as before, there were others who rebelled and whose one idea now was to break loose from the prison-house.”
--The Plague, Albert Camus
This post is either full of spoilers or full of spiders. In either case, proceed with caution.
This is the concluding part of my IndieCade East diary. The first part was posted last week.
You wouldn’t have easily picked him out of a crowd, no GTA-style floaty arrow over his head indicating him to be the creative genius you are looking for. But poor old Brendon Chung, stood beside a PC running Thirty Flights of Loving, was always trapped in conversation. I wanted to talk to him but as soon as one person finished speaking to him, another would jump in. And another. And another… until eventually he’d flee the room under the guise, I imagine, of a reasonable excuse. He had to attend one of the presentations. He had to do a thing. Perhaps he had to weep silently in the toilets.
Oh that was a running joke, by the way. In America, the word is “restroom” and Joel keeps saying “toilet” and boy does he sound dirty and not in a good way. I hope you all had a good laugh at my expense. As I wept silently in the restroom.
At New York's Museum of the Moving Image, the first thing Eric Brasure and I ran into was BaraBariBall projected onto a screen. The first day of IndieCade East was short, merely taking up a Friday evening, so there weren't that many people milling around. An IndieCade volunteer pressured us into taking the controls and she ran through the instructions.
I didn't remember anything she said as I was confused that the controller in my hands was not what I recalled from my previous experience at the Eurogamer Expo. Hmm, a Sony Playstation controller. I was also double-thrown that we were in a 2v2 team game which is twice as many players as last time.
I spent a few minutes faking the activity of knowing what I was doing. This was vital as what I was actually doing was trying to figure out which of the four characters I had control of. After a few games, my team beat Eric's and I high fived a stranger. But I wasn't here to high five a stranger. I had told everybody I had flown to IndieCade East to high five Richard Hofmeier, the developer of Cart Life, for making it into the IGF nominations.
Eric and I put our controllers down for someone else to take up the find-your-character challenge then turned to face someone that Eric, at first, thought was a security guard. Sassy black jacket, crisp white shirt, black tie, all topped off with a pair of dark, intense eyes.
Hello, Richard Hofmeier.
This is the second article in the Dishonored quadrilogy. The first was Fish Out of Water.
I was getting impatient. The guard was hanging around one of the dull paintings in Dr. Galvani’s collection and I just knew that if I made a move towards him he would decide at that specific moment to turn around. I really didn't understand this. He was supposed to be patrolling about so he could walk into my choking embrace, after which I would fold his unconscious body away discreetly like fresh laundry.
I swiped a glass off a sideboard and threw it across the room. It shattered against the far wall.
At last, the guard stirred and prised himself away from the painting. He approached the spot where the glass had smashed. I blinked under a table between us, popped up the other side and grabbed his neck. He spent the rest of the evening passed out under the table; out of sight, out of zzzzz.
Yowsers. It’s been a long time since I played Thief.
This is the first part of the Dishonored quadrilogy.
And lo, it came to pass that shortly after its release, I played Arkane Studios' Dishonored. For someone who has—
—spent the last couple of years submerged in indie fare, this flip to AAA comes as a bit of a—
FOR CRYING OUT LOUD! Will you shut your goddamn tutorial cakehole?!?