Pixels in Praxis Archives - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

The Boy Who Stole The Sun: Devlog #12

And finally... some gameplay emerges! Check it out in this late posting of Saturday's video update 🙂


The Boy Who Stole The Sun: Devlog #11

This update features a new critter, bugs related to that critter, and a romp through some of the new maps in progress. Have a look!


The Last Express Gold Edition (1997)

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Special note: while I urge you to experience The Last Express for yourself if possible, both parts of my longplay of The Last Express (failures and all) are temporarily available for viewing.  Here's part 1 and part 2.

With two narrow hallways, a sampling of side-rooms, a smoking section, dining center, and two intermittently accessible areas of the train - The Last Express Gold Edition (just The Last Express moving forward) provides more of an "open world" videogame than products that openly advertise that feature.  Jumping in can feel daunting.  I know I had some issues getting into it the first time because no matter where I went there was a conversation to overhear, discussions to jump in on, and a murder mystery my player character Robert Cath (David Svensson) unwittingly becomes a suspect in.  Then there's the steady hypnotic sounds of the train itself, bumping on bits of rail and providing the kind of low groaning grind that's catnip for an afternoon nap.

No first-person adventure game of the '90s, not even Myst, gives me the freedom to explore this fascinating microcosm of the world circa 1914.  In Myst there's a discrete objective, even if the means of achieving the goal allow the player to achieve them in whatever order they see fit.  There's no such goalpost system in The Last Express, I could tarry around the narrow corridors peeking in on eunuchs and passengers making idle small talk without even discovering the mutilated corpse of Tyler Whitney.  Granted, if I choose to ignore the compartment and go about my merry way, then I'll lose and be thrown off the Orient Express.


Nioh (2017)

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Final Fantasy XV fans take note - Nioh was in development in some form or another since 2004 and managed to deliver a game that was not a rambling, incoherent, passive-aggressive nightmare to play.  The key words there are "to play", Nioh has its fair share of storytelling problems that stem from a lack of faith in the gameplay itself being good enough to tell a story.  I'd say that stems from its long development, but there are so many cutscene, character design, and environmental choices that culled from tighter games that add to Nioh's sometimes bloated feel instead of providing texture.

Nioh's biggest problem is there's too damn much going on and not enough narrative focus to make the storytelling worthwhile.  The beginning and ends of many levels feature cutscenes that recall the classic NES Ninja Gaiden.  But Nioh's cutscenes are bland affairs, filled with wide shots of hastily introduced characters muttering something about the historical conflict in Japan and treating the player-character - William - mostly as an afterthought.  Ninja Gaiden's cutscenes were economic perfection, using tight closeups of Ryu's face to highlight the intensity of his journey and adding a layer of surprise when unknown figures entered or exited the frame.  Cutscene Ryu is just as determined as his tightly controlled platforming presentation, but William's surgical caution and the player's necessary observation of enemy patterns in the game bear little resemblance to the mostly mute presence cutscene William projects.

While the cutscene storytelling is unengaging, the environmental storytelling is a dull hodgepodge of influences. The levels themselves are often well thought out, the highlight a battle through a labyrinthine ninja training facility that flips in on itself while William works his way to the pipe smoking toad in command.  Dark Souls comparisons are tired, yet Nioh earns a mild nod with the completely unnecessary shortcuts built into the maps.  There's not enough sprawl in the paths William can take to suggest a web of people in the background working together to make the land their own, like when the unexpected environmental loops become apparent in the Dark Souls games.  Worse, the disconnected feeling is amplified by a world map where menus upon menus for level selection remove even more focus from William's journey, a similar problem I had with the otherwise excellent God Hand.


The Boy Who Stole The Sun: DevLog #10

Had another busy week. Dialog and thought bubbles are implemented, so Debug Bob now has things to say. Made a few changes to the test map, and put down a dozen new bugs on the list for editor tools and gameplay. Take a look at the latest in this week's video update.