Picture of Malindy Hetfeld

Malindy Hetfeld


Malindy is a freelance writer whose equally torrid love affairs with literature, Japan and Guybrush Threepwood have led to her covering video games.

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There's something of the palate cleanser to the faithful hack and slash game. When elsewhere the worlds are getting bigger, the narratives more urgent and the collectables more numerous, games such as Darksiders generally have only one goal: hitting monsters on the noggin. In Darksiders 3, you get to do that once again - and little else besides.

Recently, I've been thinking a lot about video game locales, about maps and whole worlds, both imagined and real. Eventually, I was left with one conviction: there are actually not that many opportunities to experience an environment the same way a game's character does.

I have heard plenty of people call Resonance of Fate weird. Maybe they mean weird for that tendency of JRPGs towards the outrageously fantastical, or how, even among games notorious for contrived plots, Resonance of Fate stands out as a particularly contorted example of the form.

A while ago I've had a discussion with a certain Spelunky-loving editor of this website in which I argued that most roguelikes, Spelunky in particular, were too chaotic for me to handle. I like the orderliness of a JRPG or a round-based strategy game, games where after a while things follow a reliable pattern.

Unlike some other games based on enduring animes from the 90s, Fist of the North Star might not be immediately familiar. Initially conceived as a collaboration between writer Sho "Buronson" Fumimura and illustrator Tetsuo Hara, Fist of the North Star was definitely the kind of thing that made my parents associate anime with violence and over-sexualisation long before Ghibli's "My Neighbour Totoro" could smooth things over.

FeatureThe state of blackness in games

From Yakuza to Oxenfree.

Seeing a black person in a game is still a strange experience more often than not. For the longest time, black characters seemed to fall precisely into two categories, scary and...funky. Both of these stereotypes are still very much alive, and yet I can also finally see some breakthroughs - games in which black people don't fill a role, and instead get to be just people.

To talk about Yakuza Kiwami 2 is to look at the game through three lenses. For some, it's a remake of a game made in the mid-2000s. For others, it's a continuation of a tale they got hooked on thanks to the release of Yakuza 0. Perhaps most importantly, it's a game that has the uncanny ability to draw from both what came before it and after it.

Management simulations have been one of the most enduring video game genres. Whether you like to manage cities, zoos, hospitals or sports teams, there are plenty of riffs on the concept. With the current renaissance of the farming sim however, it's enough to loudly say "Stardew Valley" three times to summon interest - mine included. Graveyard Keeper, then, sounded like the kind of game I didn't know I wanted, something that combines the cute style of a game made in RPG Maker with a truly interesting management idea. It's graveyards. You manage graveyards.

It's a Friday evening in October 2016, and there's more paper on my desk than I have space for. There are slips of paper with notes. Flash cards with notes for the notes. Hand-drawn maps. A text file on a tablet with colour codes to find the corresponding notes a little quicker. Most importantly, there is a 440-page hardcover rulebook resting on my legs, with more colour-coded bookmarks sticking out of it.

Yes, I know, I'm selling sticks, but these sticks fell off of something that nearly killed me in a deep, dark dungeon just a few minutes ago. I risked my hide for that limestone over there, too. This particular starter cable is most certainly a priceless relic, and if you want me to get more treasure like it, you're going to have to pay the price I've set for it. Or at least a price we can agree on.

More than twenty years ago, Donkey Kong Country taught me what the ocean sounds like. Its "Underwater Ambiance" is just that - drawn out, ambient sounds, melancholy minor chords and a relaxing melody at a leisurely beat. It captures perfectly what you see on screen; a level that isn't beaten through quick reactions, but by floating towards your next target and seeing where the current takes you.

We will never know how my life could have gone had I never been introduced to mobile puzzle games. Over the persistent draw of just one more round, assignments were left unfinished, books unread and emails unanswered. I spent endless hours of procrastination determined to prove that I had the smarts it took to solve games that wanted me for my brain and not my reflexes. Even though I've since moved to YouTube as my favourite method of procrastination, Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle makes it clear that deep down I haven't changed.

FeatureVideo game romance is broken

A look at love, from Dream Daddy to Mass Effect.

Florence, a short mobile game by the developer Mountains, covers more ground on the topic of romantic love in under an hour than most games have for decades. It does so by focusing on a few small watershed moments of being in love, from developing an interest in someone to the pleasures and hurdles of domestic co-existence to letting go of a relationship that no longer works.

Mario is a simple guy. He wears overalls and a spiffy cap. He's got a brother and a couple of close friends. He can run fast and jump high. In his various quests to save princess Peach, he makes use of all of these attributes and relationships, yet none of them tell us anything about who Mario really is.