Pixels in Praxis Archives - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
16Nov/180

Podcast Special: Night in the Woods (2017) with Tevis Thompson

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When I first reviewed Night in the Woods, I was left in a sort of awe at its ability to see us in our pain and end on resilient optimism. Night in the Woods has become one of my undeniable favorites with its distinct art style, poetic character writing, emotionally resonant mini-games, and continued relevance to our collective moment. I haven't been able to get it out of my head in the months since I finished it.

In my restless way I needed to discuss it more. So I reached out to critic and author Tevis Thompson (Second Quest, The Existential Art, 100-Word Game Reviews) for a conversation on Night in the Woods. Over the course of our conversation we talk about how traumatic identification bonds characters to our memory, the exhilaration of platforming, why protagonist Mae is seen as problematic, the difficulties in giving existential threats literal form, and playing Night in the Woods in the age of Trump.

Please join us in this conversation and I'd like to read what Night in the Woods means to you. To listen to the podcast you may click play below, the image above, or download a copy.

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11Nov/180

Return of the Obra Dinn (2018)

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If this is your first time reading Pixels in Praxis or are averse to spoilers, check out our FAQ before proceeding.

Among the many pleasures and surprises in Return of the Obra Dinn lay an embrace of one truism working insurance claims.  When someone puts in a claim they may be using their insurance on the worst day of their life.  Between the rotted corpses, potential mutiny, monster attacks, and sickness rampant on the Obra Dinn it's unlikely you'd find a worse day in the lives of its passengers or crew. But the insurance adjuster must go on and work backwards to figure out what happened so the claims may be paid.

That truism embraced - I'm head over heels enamored with Lucas Pope's Return of the Obra Dinn as it seems custom-built to appeal to each of my loves and past work as an insurance adjuster (Fire claims for four years among other insurance duties). What Pope nails is the process of working claims.  The damage has already been done and it's up to you, playing the adjuster, to piece together the events that brought the Obra Dinn to its end.

20Sep/180

Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age (2018)

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Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age (just Echoes moving forward) is almost as traditional and conservative as turn-based RPGs can be.  Any gamer familiar with the series will slide in comfortably to Echoes' skill system, patient battles, and spiritual story. There's no pretense to buzzword-heavy originality, only skilled hands who have made a consistent product for decades returning to the series for a single-player game for the first time in nine years.

Even with that familiarity, I was shocked at the number of times Echoes moved me to tears.  This is a humbling game that reminds me how unnecessarily bombastic and leaden turn-based RPGs have been the last few years (even Persona 5 could have used a touch of subtlety at times).  Echoes asks us to lay still with the faith of its characters, to sit in quiet contemplation of their decisions as time moves on without them, and explore a beautifully lived-in world.

6Sep/180

Octopath Traveler (2018)

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Octopath Traveler confuses redundancy for depth.  Its eight characters, each with their own prologue and four chapters of adventuring, are a collection of differing accents occupying what seem to be unique spaces until you progress just a bit into its far-too-long narrative.  Then the similarities become too apparent and I started to wonder why developers Square Enix (SE) and Acquire focused so heavily on stretching out the concept instead of delivering a smaller choice of tight stories.

They did a fine job crafting Octopath Traveler as I felt compelled to stop then take in the often gorgeous soundtrack and meticulously constructed environments (dubbed HD-2D as diorama is apparently too old-fashioned a word). But the total is akin to a finely fluffed pastry puff around a hollowed and dusty center.  Yet this is all by design, the absurdly named HD-2D gives the travelers a stage show feel though one offered through a dusty looking-glass.  Its aesthetic feeds into the distance, compounded by inter-party conversation where these travelers occupy separate spotlights and talk to one another over a wide gulf.

17Jul/180

Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom (2018)

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There are exactly two moments in Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom (just Revenant Kingdom moving forward) that I felt a bit of magic moving through me.  The first was when the deposed Prince Evan and new bodyguard / advisor / interdimensional time traveling President Roland (more on that in a moment) escaped Ding Dong Dell to enter the world at large.  Tiny chibi representations of the two and Evan's adorable jump animation were so precious I uttered, "That's darling," to myself.  The second occurred in Goldpaw - a gambling-based kingdom run by a dog - that enchants an annoying bird to follow around people who owe the kingdom money screeching, "U O ME U O ME".

Latter bit there might be an annoyance to some players, but it was the right amount of silly to make me think there would be some surprises in Revenant Kingdom.  I was wrong. Okay, not entirely wrong as the airship Freud would have had quite the time analyzing makes for a jarring midgame sight.  But that's not magical, or much fun, it's just a bit of grotesquerie that broke up the otherwise clean artistry of Revenant Kingdom that rarely challenged my skills or sparked my imagination.