Picture of John Walker

John Walker

Contributor

FeatureRetrospective: ISS 64

The attack warrants a second look.

Football! Eh? Don't we all love football! The way they kick it with their feet, the lovely round shape of the ball, the haircuts. It's a game of at least two halves. And have you seen when they score a goal? Gosh, everyone gets so excited about that. What a time.

I'm trying to think of more hoary old subjects to discuss than comedy in games. Let me see. How about DRM? I could be trying to talk to you about digital restrictions management. Or whether girls play games? Come on, that's more overdone, right? What about whether the PS3 is better than the 360? Okay, so in this context, everyone's now happy that we're talking about comedy in games, right?

Black Mirror II

Through a glass darkly.

You may not remember Black Mirror. I reviewed it, and I still couldn't remember a thing about it. But then, it was seven years ago. It was a peculiar Czech point-and-click adventure, in which you played a wretched man called Samuel Gordon - a character who went around being rude to everyone, leaving you feeling completely alienated from the experience.

The phone rang with a shriek that would wake the dead before trying to sell them double glazing for hell. I answered. It was Tom Bramwell, his words entering my ears as if a lava flow of rage.

There's a sensation familiar to anyone who knows adventure gaming well. It's that moment when you've cracked a puzzle, and the game opens up. Suddenly there are two or three new locations to explore, new objects to find, and new puzzles to solve. Those mysterious inventory items make more sense in this new context, and previous unsolved puzzles receive that vital clue.

When developers at Valve make a game, from the moment a single room has been crafted in their Hammer editor, they playtest it. Outsiders come in once a week, with no previous experience of the game, and play with whatever's been created. The developers must watch without comment, and observe how the player encounters the game.

So I have this thing. I love it when cartoons and humans interact. I mean, love it. It makes me feel a depth of happiness I can't explain. To understand the extent to which this reaches, I need say only this: I enjoyed watching Space Jam. No matter how bad the script, the jokes, the direction, I still enjoyed seeing Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan playing basketball together. And I won't apologise for it. From Bedknobs And Broomsticks to Loony Toons: Back In Action, if cartoon and human worlds cross over, I'm sold. Which brings us to Toonstruck.

Again

Thanks for the memories.

Hi, my name's Simon Hardnosedcop, recruited by Eurogamer to investigate games. I'm good at my job, and this is a significant case, reporting on DS adventure Again. I think the Chief is going to be impressed with my work, and I'll finally get the promotion I'm so overdue.

FeatureRetrospective: Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle

I feel like I could... like I could... like I could TAKE ON THE WORLD!

It's an all-time top five game for me. A thing that exists in my memory as a moment of sheer wonder. As I recently learned with Zak McKracken, it's not always safe to revisit such places. How can something live up to decades of emboldened memories? Well, by being as good as Day of the Tentacle.

When I was recently thinking about the current state of the DS, one game I kept returning to was Kirby: Canvas Curse. Or Kirby: Power Paintbrush. Or Touch! Kirby. Or whichever of its many names it may be going by. Released a few months after the DS, it was a game that came with no expectations, and was absolutely stunning.

Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening

They have a voice. They're going to use it.

Let's remove any confusion from the start. Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening is not another piece of crappy DLC following the dismal inclusions we've seen since the BioWare RPG's release last November. This expansion is 25 hours of full-scale new content, essentially an entire new game, that picks up the story however you may have left it. It has a new setting, a (mostly) new crew of companions, new abilities, skills, spells and talents, and most importantly, a re-imagined approach that's appropriate to a shorter format while still achieving the necessary sense of scale.

I wonder if I'm getting stupider. Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders came out in 1988, when I was 11 years old. It seems impossible to believe that at the age of 32 I can have become worse at games. And yet while my memories of playing Zak Mak when it first came out are extremely hazy, I certainly don't remember getting stuck quite as often. What I do remember is that I really enjoyed it. I've since been told by those who should know that this cannot possibly have been true. So I've gone back to find out.

David Cage is a man of extraordinary vision. Whether you believe his games match his ambition is a very personal thing. I will argue with you that Fahrenheit is one of the most exciting games I've ever played, even though it's broken in about 657 ways. Perhaps this is what's most exciting about Quantic Dream's output. However, I cannot find a similar love for Omikron: The Nomad Soul. And that's not because I can't run it on my PC.

I love Another Code: Two Memories for what it sets out to do, rather than for what it necessarily achieves. It's a tremendously imaginative game, and contains at least two spellbinding puzzles. It's also peculiarly flawed, not just by an extremely short playing time, but also the madness of including English comprehension tests at various intervals.

So I've got myself in something of a situation. I find that I'm spending an increasing amount of time in the company of another who is not a gamer. In a world where everyone's something of a gamer, even if it's just a game of Farmville at lunchtime, or some Bejeweled on the mobile phone, this new friend plays none at all. We do not have this in common.

FeatureRetrospective: Listen, We Have to Talk

John reassesses his relationship with the DS.

DS, we have to talk. I'm sorry that I'm doing this in a letter rather than face to face, but I need to express all my thoughts and feelings carefully. I need to make sure you understand. I need you to know that I still love you, I've always loved you, but something is wrong.

I'd like to be able to tell you that I'm not that into Star Trek. Really, I'm not. Which makes it my eternal frustration that I appear to know frightening amounts about it. This is probably in no small part due to my having seen every episode of The Next Generation, primarily because it could be used to distract our A-level Chemistry teacher, Mr Williamson, coaxing him into discussing the events of the previous night's episode rather than banging on tediously about benzene rings and titration.

What I take away from Dragon Age is a sense of having been somewhere. No, more than that. Having lived somewhere. In most well-established gaming worlds I feel as though I've been a visitor. Dragon Age was my home.

FeatureNarbacular Drop

John Walker corners Kim Swift about the game that spawned Portal.

Kim Swift sprang to fame as the project lead on Valve's wonderful first-person puzzler, Portal. It was a game that managed to be brilliantly clever, incredibly funny, and yet accessible to a wider gaming audience. It's with this philosophy that Swift begins her new job heading up a team at Airtight Games. We took this chance to look back over the path that took her here, beginning with the game that inspired Portal, Narbacular Drop.

FeatureRetrospective: Half-Life: Opposing Force

The few. The proud. The hiding in an air vent.

There are definitely too many corny names for heroes in videogames. Pick up a random shooter and you're bound to find yourself in control of someone called something like Dirk Death, or Rick Giantballs. Even Half-Life's Gordon only keeps the nerd up for his first name, the surname sinking into the cliché of Freeman. Which is why we should celebrate the hero at the centre of Opposing Force. It's Corporal Adrian Shephard. Has there ever been a central character for a game who sounds more like a geography supply teacher?

COP: The Recruit

Not much.

"This is essentially not cool." So said my character, Dan Miles, on a case gone wrong. Man. Etc. It has become my refrain for the entire game. But oh, oh but oh, it's a game that's trying so very, very hard to fit in.

FeatureRetrospective: The Operative: No One Lives Forever

I spy with my freakishly giant eye.

They say money makes the world go round, but this is somewhat inaccurate. Leftover momentum from the solar nebula makes the world go round. Money, in fact, is not responsible for rotation, gravity, nor indeed any number of other phenomena in the galaxy. It does, however, occasionally make games less interesting.

The Void

Colour is my obsession, joy and torment.

The Void makes me feel stupid.

FeatureRetrospective: Police Quest III: The Kindred

Violation #395.7: Clicking on a review link without clear signal.

When you think Halloween you might not immediately think Police Quest III. In fact, when asked to name a classic adventure game there's a fairly good chance this would appear far down most people's lists. Further, I wonder how many people now even know that the long-running Vivendi SWAT series began as four point-and-click adventures?

Scribblenauts

If you spell it, it will come.

Perhaps this is what people who don't play games think games are like. You must have had that moment where you're playing a game and there's a locked wooden door in front of you and an axe in your inventory, and your friend says, "Why don't you just smash the door down with the axe?" And you have to respond, "Look, just shut up, you don't know what you're talking about, OK?"

Professor Layton and Pandora's Box

A truly gentlemanly experience.

Perhaps the first mystery to solve in the sequel to the enormously popular puzzle adventure Professor Layton and The Curious Village is what the game is about. Released in the US as Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box, and later this month in the UK as Professor Layton and Pandora's Box, it is a game about Professor Layton and an artefact known as, er, the Elysian Box.

FeatureRetrospective: Space Quest IV

Travel forward, back, back again, then forward, back a bit, then forward again in time.

There tend to be two angles taken on a retro piece. Either someone goes back to a game they love and explains why they love it, or they go back to a well-known game and point out how it was actually quite flawed. I intend to take a slightly different approach to this reflection on Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers. This is a piece about how it was actually quite flawed, and why I love it.