Are you ready? I hope you’re ready. This is pretty much the last week you have to sit back and relax before a veritable deluge of games comes your way. The worst part is that you are totally and utterly helpless to stop it. Or maybe that’s the best part. I’m still not sure. After two decades of playing video games, I’m still not sure.
So let’s not think about how next week you have to play Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance or Crysis 3 (read this brilliant preview by Cara Ellison over at Rock, Paper, Shotgun). Let’s not dwell on the fact that you’ll soon have SimCity and Tomb Raider breathing down your neck. Let’s totally ignore that StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm might actually be coming out next month. Instead, let’s look to these little gems and relax.
And not think about how totally boned we are.
400 Years is a little Flash game that comes to us from designer/developer dude ScriptWelder. In it, you play as a statue, and boy does he move brutally slow. Like, painfully so. But you know what? He has the time. He has, in fact, 400 years’ worth of time to be a statue. But what happens after 400 years? Well, a calamity, and you’ve decided to stop it.
400 Years is a slow, deliberate game that works precisely because it is a short and inventive game. You have a total of four actions that include walk, pick stuff up, put stuff down, and wait. There are several puzzles along the way to your goal that will have to be solved with these four simple controls, but it’s worth it. It becomes a soothing experience that forces you to relinquish that kung fu death grip you have on being in 100% control of every video game you encounter. It is, for lack of a better word, Zen.
And if you ever get stuck, don’t worry. Time is on your side.
I hope you like interactive fiction because this is it, man. You are going to get the full experience. You have to install an interpreter, download a .gblorb file, and type a whole bunch of words. But Counterfeit Monkey is worth it.
Unlike most other IF titles, you are not simply interacting with things in the world but you are actively changing them. You are set to escape an island with the sole ability to remove letters from words. JP LeBreton of Double Fine described it quite astutely as “Portal for English” and he’s right; it feels almost exactly like that. Obviously, you aren’t crafting literal portals, but the changes you can actuate and the rate and capacity for which you do it definitely feels like you are zipping around the world through portals.
For instance, if a boat can be turned into a boa or an oat. A wheel can become a heel. Get it? Good. Now play it.
If you’re not familiar with Infinity Blade, you play as an unnamed hero who is trying to kill the immortal God King. You have to fight through his castle to reach his throne, at which point you will battle him…and die. Maybe. Probably.
But no worries, warrior, because you are simple one of an endless bloodline. Each time you die, you can restart as a new descendent but with your old stats and equipment. You hack and slash and block and cast magic on your way to killing hundreds of oversized foes. It’s a blast.
System Shock 2
Okay, yes, another old game. System Shock 2 is coming up on 14 years since its original release in 1999 for the PC. It was a seminal title that cemented both Looking Glass Studios and Irrational Games as giants in the industry. If you look at the roster for the now closed Looking Glass, you’ll see quite a few legends in there such as Arkane Studios’ Harvey Smith of Dishonored fame, Deus Ex‘s Warren Spector of the recently shuttered Junction Point Studios, and many more. Plus, you’ve got Ken Levine. You know, the guy who made BioShock.
Needless to say, System Shock 2 was a big deal. Its influence on the industry is boundless, but we had yet to see a released for anything other than PC 14 years ago. EA and the Meadowbrook Insurance Group had it all tied up in a rights conflict since Looking Glass closed in 2000, but a fellow by the name of Stephen Kick managed to broker a deal for it to be released on GOG.com, and you know what? He did good. The game not only holds up spectacularly well but this version also includes the soundtrack, maps, and the original pitch document. So go buy System Shock 2! Again!