UWG Top Ten: #3- Super Mario 64

I can distinctly remember the first time I played Super Mario 64.

It was the last time buying a video game console was a family event. My father had purchased a Nintendo 64 the day it released and brought home one of the two launch titles for the system.  This was the third time over 11 years that we had all gathered around the television to watch our favorite plumber run and jump across the screen.  After hooking up the console to the TV in our den, my father passed the torch of first play to his sons; handing the controller to my brother.  I slid the power button on, and sat by my brother as the Nintendo 64 launched in our household.

Continue reading UWG Top Ten: #3- Super Mario 64

UWG Top 10: #4 – Mass Effect

Image from Flickr user: Ryan Somma

Many Decisions Lie Ahead. None of them Easy.” Looking back, it seems like Mass Effect could have easily been very different from what was released back in November 2007. Watching this trailer conjures mental images of a game filled with jaw-clenching life or death choices. “Who will you save? Which planets will you leave to their fate?” it seems to ask. In the beginning, this is the game we thought we were getting: high stakes and high consequences in a sprawling galaxy where you couldn’t possibly save everyone. Of course, that’s not what we got. Arguably, there were very few difficult decisions to be had (just one in fact). Such far-reaching choices would have been incredible, but I suppose it was never meant to be. We did get something else though, something that may have wound being better than such choices in the end.
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UWG Top 10: #5 – Majora’s Mask

Image by Flickr User: Afrokid
Image by Flickr User: Afrokid

Today, the Duck (blogger of The Duck of Indeed, of course) has the pleasure of sharing with all of you a post on the game that ranked #5 in our top 10 list, “The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask”. I was so happy to see that this game made the top 10 to begin with, as from what I understand, it’s a rather underrated game. While many people dislike how different this game is from other “Zelda” games, including the whole time concept, it is these very differences that make this game my absolute favorite of the series and one of my favorite games of all time. But, first, a quick summary.

In this game, Link ends up in a strange land called Termina, where the moon is about to fall in just three days, thanks to the evil Majora’s Mask that has possessed a Skull Kid. To be honest, while I adore the game, I do admit that the plot is a bit odd, and the way Link even ends up in Termina to begin with doesn’t make a whole lot of sense (which has caused some people to theorize that all of “MM” is a dream, while others go so far as to say that Link is, in fact, dead). In many ways, this game is very different from your typical “Zelda” game, as it actually has nothing to do with Zelda, and there isn’t really even a villain to speak of but a spooky, apparently sentient mask. And as you’d expect, masks make up a big part of the game, many of which can do pretty useful things, including several that can turn Link into a Deku, Goron, or Zora, while others are actually not so helpful. At all. And unfortunately, the dungeons the series is known for are…well, there’s not many of them. There’s actually only four, and while they are four good dungeons, there’s still, you know, just four. The rest of the gameplay is made up of various sidequests, but that’s not really as boring as you’d expect…. It really isn’t.

Continue reading UWG Top 10: #5 – Majora’s Mask

UWG Top 10: #6 – Why is Halo 3 so Good?

Screenshot by Flickr User: Charley {HH} Ghost
Screenshot by Flickr User: Charley {HH} Ghost

That phrasing really isn’t appropriate. A more suiting question might be, why isn’t halo 3 so good? Halo 3 offers a stunning campaign with refreshing storytelling and a competitive yet ludicrously fun multiplayer element. That is what I  salivate over when it comes to first-person shooters, and I think I speak for a large portion of the gaming community too.

My experience with Halo 3 is an uncommon one. I played the game when it was first popular like many, but not enough to allow myself to understand why it is so loved. However last year the game became available on Xbox Live’s “Games With Gold” and was free to download. Of course I jumped at the chance to replay the classic shooter. And within a week I had finished the campaign on the hardest difficulty. I dived into the Halo universe head first and I am so glad I did. I finally got to see why Master Chief is such a popular character, for his unfailing endurance and a healthy amounts of luck make Master Chief very easy to root for. The campaign was an epic finish to a lovingly constructed trilogy that blew me away from the first combat scenario to the adrenaline fuelled final driving mission. Continue reading UWG Top 10: #6 – Why is Halo 3 so Good?

UWG Top 10: #7 – Banjo-Kazooie

Image by Flickr user wheresthebrain
Image by Flickr user wheresthebrain

When I write about or speak of my gaming history, Banjo-Kazooie is a game that comes up… a lot. I’ve found joy in many games, but none of them quite compare to the pure bliss I experienced with in the delightfully colorful world of Banjo the bear and Kazooie the bird. It’s a game that helped me through a real-life rough patch. It’s a game that needled itself so deeply into my mind that I can conjure up the sights and sounds of the game without much thought. It’s a game that continues to hold its own even among 3D adventure platformers of today. It is, pure and simple, Banjo-Kazooie.

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UWG Top 10: #8 – BioShock

Image Gathered From Flickr User: Charlie NZ

I almost didn’t play BioShock.

After having loved this game ever since picking it up in 2007 (has it really been that long?!), the thought of never having played it almost doesn’t seem possible. Yet this is true; Back when it first came out I very nearly passed it over.  And the thing is, I almost did so without a second thought. Continue reading UWG Top 10: #8 – BioShock

UWG Top 10: #9- The Walking Dead

Image above from flickr user: Tim Peacock

There are zombies but wait, it’s much more interesting that all that. Image from http://www.destructoid.com

It’s a privilege and a burden to be given the task of evangelizing the Walking dead to the you, the good readers of United We Game. Unlike the other games on this list, the Walking Dead is not a trailblazer of ground breaking game play. The other, rightly vaunted, games on this list tend to stick in the memory for bringing new mechanics, control schemes and interactions with the game worlds to the fore.

The Walking Dead, however, uses a fairly basic graphic adventure game. The usual complex puzzles are stripped back to their very basics and take very little thought to complete. Graphics are low rent and the control scheme adequate at best.

This all pales into insignificance however when the true merits are considered. This is the game that finally treats the slowly ageing gaming population as the adults they’ve become. Gaming finally growing up but don’t worry there are still zombies in it.

Like all the best fiction, the zombies, become only a secondary adversary. This game isn’t about zombies, it’s about people, just like Jaws isn’t about the shark. Both these movie monsters serve only to drive the characters into situations where they can do nothing but show their true colours.

So for those don’t know, in this game you play Lee, a convicted murderer (whether or not he did or didn’t do it is left ambiguous for a good portion of the game) on his way to jail until an unexplained zombie outbreak kind of gets in the way. He happens upon a young girl called Clementine (Clem for short) and the pair quickly form a bond as he becomes her protector and she gives him a reason to survive. As mentioned above, there is a basic adventure game template but puzzles are straight forward. They are meant to keep you moving along, interested in the plot and serve as convenient time to wander your environment and talk to your ever evolving group of compatriots.

Nearly everything in this game is in place to serve as character development. How your comrades react to changing situations, the locations they’re in, the conversations they have, the looks on their faces and their reactions to your choices. Choices, indeed, this game gives you choices. Remember that claim I made earlier about this being an adult game? The moral choices you make are what defines how you play Lee but they are not the usual cartoonish moral choices that first appeared in Fable and Black and White. These are real characters and your choices mean consequences for them, suddenly the weight of the choices is real because each character has been subtly developed throughout the game.

The whole “Good” and “Evil” path was developed many years ago and has not really developed in games. It was seen as enough to let you be a devil or an angel. A few games began to iterate such as Mass Effect and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Introducing grey areas to your choices or making you really think about the outcomes of your decision. Too many games basically rely on there being two separate play throughs, right up to the modern day, a good one and a bad one. You do the good one because you’re a nice person and then do the evil one to see the difference.

The Walking Dead gives you choices but there is no right choice, no wrong choice. There’s just a choice, your choice. Sometimes it’s completely instinctual. Each choice has a timer, you can’t sit and ponder. Let me give you an example, in the first episode (the game is split into five episodes) you have to decide which of two characters to save. You’ve spent perhaps twenty minutes in total with these people, you have but a few minutes of conversation with each of them to base your decision on. There is no right choice. You’ll question your decision for the rest of the game. Therefore justifying the need for the dilemma to be there in the first place.  There’s no point to having a choice if you decided at the start which of two options you are going to select each time.

This interaction between character and player agency is the true genius of the game. In reality, there is no branching path, your choices don’t effect the final outcome of the story but that doesn’t matter because this is your story. You are reacting to these characters because of how you feel about them.

This is why I champion this game, it may not be the genre defining entry that some other titles on this list are but it pushes forward the template for the whole medium. Now, characters can be more than electric ninjas and busty maidens and they can mean something real to us because they are flawed but striving for the best world they can. Players can make a choice that felt truly important. Conversations between characters can be for more than just plot development.

All this and I haven’t even mentioned the fantastic voice acting and brilliant plot. They are all part of the package. Due to the episodic nature of the game, certain sections are stronger than others but each is an important development to the harrowing conclusion. Oh, and that conclusion. The less said for the uninitiated the better. Just experience it. If you haven’t played it then grab a copy and spend an evening with some complex, annoying, strong, terrified and brilliant people.