Pixels in Praxis Archives - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
10Jul/180

Detention (2017)

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Detention defines itself through absence and horrific spectacle.  The former weighs on the latter after Wei Chung Ting disappears searching for a phone to call for help.  The latter makes its presence felt as soon as Wei goes missing with Fang Ray Shin waking up in a nightmare version of her auditorium with Wei's corpse hanging upside-down above her.  There is no way this story can end well, at least in the way we're accustomed to with survival and acceptance.  The only way Detention can end is through repetition or resignation, repeating the horrific spectacle or wearily letting go of the time lost.

Playing Detention is a sometimes exhausting experience but - save for one break I needed to get some outside air - it's one I willingly took on myself from start-to-finish.  The only other game I felt compelled to do this with in recent memory is Night in the Woods.  The parallels aren't immediately apparent, yet they're pressing.  Both have to do with the ways struggling communities under the weight of some oppressive regime expect their young (women, in particular) to sacrifice themselves for temporary relief.  There are even matching scenes where the depressed protagonists stare at themselves in the mirror and are saddened or disgusted by the person peering back.

3Jun/180

LOCALHOST (2017)

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LOCALHOST can be purchased on itch.io.

"My mind feels too clear. My memories are automatically sorted, processed. And all of human experience isn't enough."

These words come from the red drive, arguably the most tragic of the artificial intelligences I'm tasked to delete in the middle of LOCALHOST's night.  I've felt that inability to stop the rush of memories before where every decision and feeling I've made or experienced blindsides me at once.  But that rush, that overwhelming sensation, is part of the human experience.  That the red drive, supposedly a man who uploaded his consciousness as he lay dying of cancer, never experienced the existential anguish of feeling the entirety of your existence laid bare brings up two important questions.

The first - am I being tricked?  Red has a personality and communicates terror but using broad strokes.  It's as if red's AI learned the words of existential angst but didn't quite get the hang of the helpless intensity of being painfully present.  The second - why don't I care?  Or, more to the point, why don't I empathize?

I'm aware as I make my conversation choices that these are fictionalized drives of AI, programmed by fictional programmers but made by a real team that had to include some programmers.  Even as I write that I realize I'm uncomfortably aware of exactly where I am and what I'm doing.  This collection of electronic signals communicates artificiality through carefully constructed encounters that are animated with uncomfortably familiar mannerisms.  My brain fires similar electrical signals to make these hands work, and I'm struggling to contain the associated feelings.

24May/180

The Boy Who Stole The Sun: Devlog #13

What do you do when naughty strings and dirty tokens muck up your code?  In this installment of The Boy Who Stole The Sun devlog, Seth guides us through the nitty gritty of engine debugging with of time to spare to show off new features, graphics, and a glimpse of critters to come.

22May/180

Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire (2018)

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When Pillars of Eternity came out in 2015 it was like a period of darkness broke with the slightest sliver of hope that the golden days of isometric RPGs à la Baldur's Gate and Fallout might return.  I devoured PoE lustily, getting caught up in its unique take on souls and religion alongside its complicated characters such as the bigoted, sexist, altogether repugnant Durance.  Playing PoE again in preparation for PoE 2: Deadfire (just Deadfire moving forward) served as a cold shower to my early excitement.

PoE scratched an itch that had developed into a sore and any isometric ointment would do.  Revisiting PoE was a chore, the dour plot and plodding combat proving counter-intuitive to my investment in its world.  Deadfire advertised itself as a more swashbuckling adventure that serves as a direct continuation of my choices in PoE while updating the combat and class system to the more successful Tyranny (still the best of this latest glut of isometric RPGs).

6May/180

Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana (2018)

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Adol Christin, frozen in time with his striking red hair and piety toward sword-based justice, is an enduring figure who has anchored the Ys series for a shade over three decades now.  He doesn't have the cultural cache of Mario or Kirby nor the creative restlessness of those two figures.  Ys has instead endured through sparse tinkering and consistency.  Whether it's through the destruction derby battle system of Ys I: Ancient Ys Vanished or the rapid party switching break fights of Ys: Memories of Celceta if I saw Adol's red hair on the box I knew I'd be in for a good seven to ten hours of tightly focused combat.

Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana (just Lacrimosa of Dana moving forward) is a relatively big departure for the Ys franchise.  Lacrimosa of Dana leans less into fine-tuning the battle system and more in providing the kind of sprawling story that Memories of Celceta provided.  It's a self-conscious stab at maturity for the long-running series, and one that reminds me that just because something is more mature doesn't make it better or more enjoyable.  In the case of Lacrimosa of Dana, that maturity comes with a massive slog of flat storytelling punctuated by a few moments of silent power.