spindizzy: (Backwards and in heels)
[personal profile] spindizzy
Cover of Costume Quest.


I found Costume Quest via a circuitous route: a tabletop RPG that I love, Costume Fairy Adventures cited it as an influence, and while I do not understand Halloween at all (it was Not A Thing at round my way when I was a kid, but I'm enjoying watching the American part of twitter turn into pumpkins), the combo of "Dressing up gives you superpowers!" and "Made by Double Fine, who brought you Psychonauts!" got me where I live so I had to check it out.

Costume Quest is fairly straightforward in terms of plot: you and your twin head off trick or treating in a new town, with instructions from your parents to make new friends... And then your twin gets kidnapped by monsters! It's a good thing that trick-or-treating where you're from apparently involves your costumes letting you transform into a giant monster version of that costume to help you fight monsters and rescue your sibling!

No really.

Read more... )
helloladies: Gray icon with a horseshoe open side facing down with pink text underneath that says Co-Review (co-review)
[personal profile] helloladies
Transistor cover


From the creators of Bastion, Transistor is a sci-fi themed action RPG that invites you to wield an extraordinary weapon of unknown origin as you fight through a stunning futuristic city. Transistor seamlessly integrates thoughtful strategic planning into a fast-paced action experience, melding responsive gameplay and rich atmospheric storytelling. During the course of the adventure, you will piece together the Transistor's mysteries as you pursue its former owners.


Susan
"Buy a bundle with the soundtrack?" I asked myself at checkout. "Why on earth would I do that?!" LITTLE DID I KNOW.

Ira
LITTLE DID YOU KNOW. As the game's developer, Supergiant, is apparently wont to do, the soundtrack for this game is absolutely gorgeous and woven into its storytelling and characterization. The music is a great way to start this review because it's so much a part of the game's atmosphere and worldbuilding. The game is set in a city, Cloudbank, that is ever-changing based on the votes of its populace, from what's on restaurant menus to the colour of the sky to the weather. We start the game with Red, the female protagonist, and a man's voice coming from the titular sword, the Transistor, and we face the Camerata as our antagonists. The cast also includes a variety of diverse characters, including people of colour and queer folks, though the way the narrative treats them is... complicated. Red is a silent protagonist, but the sword talks plenty, providing narration, commentary, and interaction. This is accomplished by absolutely superb voice acting on the part of Logan Cunningham, the voice of the Transistor. It's especially effective when he has emotional moments with Red or when he's being affected by the Spines.

Transistor screenshot: stopping to hum


Susan
Logan Cunningham carried so much of the game for me, entirely on the strength of his voice acting. The man in the transistor is our narrator, our primary source of explanations and world-building, and the voice acting adds so much colour and emotion – which is really what you need in a game where the protagonist can't speak for herself. The way he says Red's name breaks my heart, there's a world of backstory in the way he says "Hello again, Sybil," his pitch-perfect reactions – Ira, I don't think I can tell you how much I liked that voice acting, and the bits you picked out are the bits that got me too.

(The other voices are good too – Royce sounds like Matthew McConnahey's character in True Detective, played back at a slower speed, Asher is the right level of awkward stiltedness for someone trying to reveal and conceal the truth at the same time, and the distortions of Sibyl are appropriately unnerving – but the man in the transistor is the stand-out part for me.)

The voice acting is also what sold me on Red and the transistor's relationship in the early stages of the game. Who and what they are to each other isn't really clear for at least half of the game – I admit, I spent the first few levels going "Please tell me he's not a charming creeper taking advantage, that is a trope I recognise" until I caught up. But through the voice acting, it's crystal clear that he adores her, even though he's essentially talking to himself the entire game.

This structure – the transistor speaking mostly in monologue rather than dialogue – means much of the story and characterisation is told in gaps. Because Red doesn't speak at all during the game, you have to actually look for her characterisation. A lot of it is done through what the other characters say about her, or through her gestures and comments on the OVC terminals – public-access computer terminals set up all over town to enable the mass voting that Cloudbank relies on – but interacting with most of the terminals is completely optional, which means that you can actually skip half of the characterisation of the game's main character. But the way it's done is excellent - she can leave comments on news items and surveys, so you can watch her type, delete, type -

("Is it following me?" she writes, but she posts something different entirely.)

Transistor screenshot: stopping to hum


And there are only two chances that I've found to have Red and the Transistor actually interact, both of which come through the OVC terminals (one I actually MISSED the first time around - when I say that it's possible to actually skip some of the characterisation, I'm not kidding!).

Ira
At this point I want to pause and consider the problem of silent women. Read more... )

SPOILERS BELOW

Spoilers )
spindizzy: A My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic style portrait of me. (Lady Business)
[personal profile] spindizzy
Cover of Beyond Eyes; a little girl walks into a woods.


Beyond Eyes is about a little girl, Rae, who is blind, as she goes looking for her missing cat. I wasn't sure what to expect from it, as it was something I picked up in the Steam Sale for cheap, but I'm still not sure how to feel about it even after I've finished it.

Cut! )
helloladies: Horseshoe icon with the words Lady Business underneath. (Default)
[personal profile] helloladies
Today we're excited to welcome Ira to Lady Business to talk about Dragon Age: Inquisition! Ira is a kickass illustrator, writer, and web developer who gained their powers by consuming the bones of their enemies. They make art, comics, and writing when they are not distracted by way too many video games. You can find more of Ira's work at their tumblr.





So I suppose it's time to talk about Dragon Age: Inquisition! In the last 2-3 months I bulldozed my way through the entire DA game series, have arrived at the end of DAI, and boy howdy, I have opinions. Let's have a spoiler-free summary up here first, with spoilery details below the cut. Overall I feel like Bioware tried to add a lot of grey, particularly to issues they'd seen people getting pretty black-and-white over, and really overcorrected with the grey.
The Dragon at Emprise Du Lion

Grey for everyone!
(Image credit: Dragon Age Wiki)

Many thanks to [personal profile] owlmoose for helping me figure out some of what was bothering me and playing editor. She may not agree with all I say, but helped shape the saying.

Things I liked!
  • Cassandra Pentaghast. She is nearly perfect as a character, imperfections and all. She's determined, loyal, iron-willed, unwavering, and sees the faults in the systems she's part of. If only my lady Inquisitor could have romanced her! But overall? This is one part of DAI that gets no [disgusted noise] from me.

  • Josephine was a treat, and I appreciate the alternate approach she represents; I often find diplomatic or third-option solutions far more interesting and satisfying. Her romance is adorable, her character is great, and I just wish we weren't such a terribly, terribly underutilized gem.

  • Cullen grew a lot -- good work, buddy. Shame you're straight too.

  • It was great to see Morrigan again, with how she's matured and changed.

  • The game is beautiful and huge -- overwhelmingly so much of the time, but I think that has more to do with my sensory overload threshold than anything else. Whenever I was up to handling it, the scale and scenery were breathtaking.

  • DAI does... some... amount of work to correct some of the flaws in its inherently misogynistic worldbuilding. There are more and more varied women, gender is made less an issue of, and overall the treatment of women is improving.

  • Krem is fucking great and I will hear no words against him and his awesomeness.

  • Dagna! Scout Harding! Dwarf ladies!

Things that rubbed me a wee bit the wrong way
  • Oppression as a theme is treated with none of the care and gravity it or Bioware's own worldbuilding deserve. The mage-templar conflict is papered over with a bit too much "both sides are just as bad" hand-waving, and the elves, POC-coded as they are, are treated terribly by the narrative, painted as foolish and participants in their own demise and ongoing oppression.

  • There's a lot of tricky-to-icky racial subtext in the game, from Morrigan's blatant elfsplaining to the first Black playable female character being classist and supportive of oppressive regimes to a POC party member being a slavery apologist.

  • GSM people continue to be majority outcast or problematic in some way while straight people continue to be majority upstanding folk. The only to-date canonical gay companion romance is written deliberately as a questionable idea. One of the gay characters gets an arc about how very tragically gay and outcast they are.

  • Most returning or past characters and factions are treated poorly by the narrative. The Grey Wardens got some unbelievably bad writing, right down to a moustache-twirling villain. Characters who would have been thematically appropriate to return, such as Merrill, didn't, while characters who did show up are poorly used and executed, written into corners by worldstates.

  • The large-scale writing is poor. The antagonists were wildly uneven, culminating with Corypheus himself who, drop dead deeply satisfyingly awesome as his voice was, amounted to little more than a by-the-numbers, suitable-for-mass-consumption, uncomplicated Big Bad. The overall plot is thin and poorly tied together.

  • The Inquisitor themselves is handed some dialogue options that are homophobic and transphobic at worst, ignorant and clumsy at best. Why?

Let's just dive right in to the dirty stuff, right? SPOILERS AHOY.

Read more... )
renay: Pink pony with brown hair and wings on a yellow background bucking hind legs in the air. (Default)
[personal profile] renay
Tomb Raider reboot logo


The Tomb Raider franchise is incredibly long running with huge amounts of multimedia content, so of course I know almost nothing about its history. Tomb Raider debuted back in 1996, two years before I graduated from Nintendo to Playstation. I missed the boat on the initial launch of the franchise and never picked it up. The 2013 Tomb Raider, a reboot of the series, is my first experience with it other than the films.

1996 Tomb Raider game cover with Lara holding her iconic guns


I was aware of the first film, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, because when it was released I was constantly on the lookout for stories with women at the center. Even though the film didn't get a good critical response, I still loved it. I liked the sequel just as much, although that one didn't do as well either critically or with audiences. I had been so sheltered and subject to regressive media that my parents liked that these movies were like catnip. An intelligent, hardworking lady with incredible physical skills! Outsmarting everyone! Being both badass and empathetic! It was impossible to resist. Read more... )

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