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Lewis Lewis Denby is a freelance videogames journalist and critic. As well as HonestGamers, he has written for PC Gamer, Eurogamer, The Escapist, Gamasutra and BeefJack.

Title: New podcast
Posted: May 12, 2009 (03:50 AM)
We have cast another pod.

Had to do it via Skype again... sound quality is marginally better than the last time we did that, but is still not that great.

It's a shorter one this time, at just over half an hour, which some of you may be glad of. I think it's a particularly interesting one, too, covering some worthwhile topics.

It's here.
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Title: Eurogamer
Posted: May 10, 2009 (01:46 AM)
So I have a front-page feature over at Eurogamer, which I'm really pleased about. It's a big outfit, and to be honest, any chance to ramble on about brilliant games is awesome. Have a read, if you want. And yes, this is the conflict of interest that meant Bloggy McGee got edited the other day.

Actually surprised at how vigorously chopped it's been. The prod-editing process is obviously going to be more thorough at the big outfits, but every other sentence seems to have at least a word stripped. Mostly, it's fine - but man! My original ending was brilliant!

"...for having lived through it. For having /survived/..."

'Cause, y'know, it's survival hor- oh forget it.

:)
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Title: Current Workload
Posted: May 08, 2009 (08:12 AM)
Pathologic feature for Eurogamer
Wallace & Gromit review for here
In The Mix interview for here
Compiling contest results for here
Jessica Curry interview for Reso
Velvet Assassin review for Reso
Posting out shitloads of games for Reso people
Doing a degree.
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Title: Today I Die
Posted: May 06, 2009 (05:16 PM)
A splendid flash game now exists, which I shall write more about tomorrow, in less sleepy-and-girlfriend-is-nagging-me-to-come-to-bed-and-no-not-in-that-way mood. For now: go on, it only lasts a few minutes.
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Title: Conclusions: Fahrenheit
Posted: May 06, 2009 (02:23 PM)
So: it doesn't crash anywhere near as badly as I was fearing. It gets silly, yes, but not horrific. Still reasonable, as far as games go. Just not as nice as it once was.

And there are still some really nice sequences, right up to the end. I agree with Zipp: the Lucas/Carla rumpy-pumpy scene was more gratuitous than it needed to be. Digitised nipples are rarely necessary. But it was still quite a sweet scene, particularly considering the antagonism before.

Quite a skip between the theme park and the next bit, though, wasn't it? Would have been nice if the game had the courtesy to explain that MONTHS HAVE PASSED.

It stays in the 6-7 region, I think. I'm not bothered too much by the increasingly Dan Brown plot. The game's just fundamentally flawed. The "game" bit isn't coherent enough. It can't decide what it wants to be - something Nomad Soul suffered rottenly from as well. You get the sense that Cage's games are all about the world, the story and the characters, rather than what you actually do. So Nomad Soul became a wonderful, vibrant virtual universe, that tried to throw adventure, RPG and FPS into the mix at random. Fahrenheit tries to do adventure, stealth and, um, Guitar Hero. I quite like what it's trying to achieve - a total interactive movie - but, in a sense, I think it needed to stick to one thing. Either go pointy-clicky, or rhythm-action. Not both. And definitely not stealth. Those two levels were awful.

A really fascinating, though not entirely successful, experiment.
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Title: EDITED CONTROVERSY!
Posted: May 06, 2009 (08:42 AM)
You'll have seen this blog post. I've decided to remove it in light of new events I don't really want to speak of at this time. But, er, yes. Conflict of interest stuff.

Title: IMPRESSIONS: Fahrenheit
Posted: May 04, 2009 (09:11 AM)
I've been playing Fahrenheit. Not Indigo Prophecy, because that version's for Americans and has its boobs chopped off. I've been playing solidly from 1pm until now, so not quite sure where in the story I am - but I'm guessing it's ambling towards the stage where it gets a little bit silly. I hope it can hold out for a bit longer. So far, it's a fascinating game.

Because, really, it's a film. Only it's a film that branches, depending on your actions. Only your actions are never really tangible, because it's mainly just QTEs. Which, incredibly, aren't horrible! It's a Choose Your Own Adventure book, rendered in full 3D.

It's incredibly self-conscious about this. But it knows the route it wants to take. The main menu is a DVD menu asking if you want to 'Play the film'. The script regularly hits you with jokes about the foibles of videogames and videogame culture. I can't decide if it doesn't believe in itself enough, or it believes in itself too much. Or just the right amount.

The camera and controls are preposterously awful, and are the Enormous Flaw so far. If they stay as the biggest problem, I'll be happy - though from what I've heard, the cliché-ridden second half could be the biggest hurdle I've to overcome. So far: I'm not sure it's the route I'd like games to go down, but as an experiment, and as a snapshot of an alternate form of the meduim, it's dead valuable and I'm glad I bought it.

More to follow, undoubtedly.

Title: TERROR!
Posted: April 29, 2009 (12:37 PM)
Worth a post, I reckon.

Andy Johnson's posted the first of a series of articles over at Resolution, examining how games explore matters of national security. The topic of this one is terrorism, and it makes for a thoroughly interesting read. There's a lot of room for this sort of almost-academic writing in serious games journalism, methinks. Well worth a read - and do leave him a nice comment over at Reso if you've any of your own thoughts on the matter.
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Title: WHAT TO PLAY!
Posted: April 29, 2009 (05:13 AM)
I just had an incredible moment of flailing where I couldn't decide which game I wanted to play. I launched HL2ep2... no, not that, not today. Quick exit, and throw the Blood Money disk into the drive... wait, no - it's good, butI want something with a bit of bleakness.

STALKER. No, shit, I uninstalled it a bit ago, so I'll need to grab that off Steam again first.

Pathologic it is.
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Title: A lorra lorra games.
Posted: April 26, 2009 (02:49 PM)
I have some sort of bizarre compulsion to buy truckloads of games at the moment.

It's weird. I'm fortunate enough to get a reasonable amount of stuff sent to me via PR companies, so there's rarely much need to purchase anything. In the past fortnight, though, I've bought seven games. All old, decrepit, budget things, of course, but still. Seven. That's quite impressive.

My favourite recent purchase (LIES. That's Braid. But it doesn't sit nicely with what I want to talk about) is Hitman: Blood Money. Which is just all kinds of brilliance. Sneaky-stabby-shooty-non-linear gorgeousness. I rate it more highly than Thief. Seriously. I've not had this much devilish fun with a stealth game for years.

(On that note, I have a really bizarre urge to play Metal Gear Solid 2. Why number 2? That was sorta the worst one, wasn't it?)

Today I bought one of the old Crash Bandicoot games for my missus, and Amped 3. For no reason whatsoever other than that I saw it, second hand, for far cheaper than I expected. It's one of the nuttiest, most bizarre things in the world. The cut-scenes are the obscurest of obscure. It doesn't seem to be very good, you understand, but it was worth the fiver for the bizarro presentation alone.

It appears not to have split-screen mode, though. Which is just inexplicable. This is a fucking snowboarding game that's purely single-player. What the bottoms were they thinking?

Anyway, I was going to buy another game today as well. Something off Steam or Gamersgate, I would imagine. But, for the life of me, I can't remember what it was. Maybe it was Psychonauts - I have been intending to pic that up for a while. But it doesn't seem to click. What on earth was it?

Meanwhile, my search for the elusive ICO continues. If anyone can find a copy anywhere in the world for below about forty quid, I'd be a very happy chappy.

Title: Pro-Marriage organisation launches Anti-Marriage campaign
Posted: April 23, 2009 (04:08 AM)
Mr. Walker points to this astonishing campaign by America's National Organisation for Marriage:



I was going to write a lot of things about this myself, but, well, he says just about everything I would. So just read that. I'd additionally argue that the notion of "being married" doesn't intrinsically change a serious relationship in the first place, so the shift between a couple cohabiting and being married makes literally no difference to anyone.

Title: A Model For Reviews
Posted: April 22, 2009 (10:02 AM)
Inevitible games journalism shop talk leads me to consider how we approach our reviews. There's a problem with the traditional method, in that it strays dangerously close to some sort of step-by-step analysis of an artistic product. What is the game about? What's the gameplay like? What are the graphics like? It's all nonsense, because as we know, games simply don't work like that.

Assuming we don't go towards that hideous method too much, what do we tend to do? Well, we tend to talk about how the game feels to play, how compelling it is, how creative it is. This is some way closer to hitting the mark, but it's still not something that quite nails the experience of playing a videogame. The problem is that it's an inherently subjective experience, but writing about a game is invariably for a wider audience. There's a conflict of interest between personal opinion and removed objectivity. Where to go?

Suskie recently posted a review of MadWorld which I think goes some way to hitting the mark. The notion is not "what is this game?" but "what is this game?" That slight shift in stress emphasises something quite important. At its core, what is this game about? What does it do to us? Disregarding everything mechanical completely, how does/doesn't this game work?

I'm applying this model to something I'm writing at the moment. It's by no means a structure for writing the actual piece, but it is a template for my thoughts going into it. The idea is to repeatedly ask myself "What is Zeno Clash," then describe it in a series of simple sentences without talking about any peripheral or mechanical issues. Simplifying it into single-sentence descriptions helps pick apart all the surface nonsense and get down to the nitty-gritty. In other words: it's criticism, not reviewing. But it's criticism in the sense that it's trying to engage with the game, despite any flaws it may have. You can apply it to a crap game as well. It's about trying to see the value of gaming.

A bit pompous? Yeah, probably. It'll be interesting to see how it turns out.

How do you approach your review-thinking, people?

Title: First impressions: Zeno Clash
Posted: April 21, 2009 (12:55 PM)
This is all kinds of awesome.

A first-person FPS-cum-adventure-cum-beat-em-up from Chilean indie house Ace Games turns out to demonstrate just how true that name is. Zeno Clash is a beautiful ugly. It's ugly in the sense that it's gruesome, often visually disturbing and, at times, oddly frightening to look at. It's beautiful because... well, because just look at it:



It's a surprisingly solid beat-em-up interrupted by surprisingly disappointing FPS mechanics, but driven along by the unmitigated joy of seeing just what this crazy world throws at you next. Whether it's double-sized giraffes with elephant heads, parachuting squirrels with dynamite strapped to their back, haunted woodlands full of strange ethereal beings or a boat trip down moonlit river during The End Of The World, it's always aesthetically remarkable, always stunningly creative, and always startlingly atmospheric.

It's out on Steam now, and it isn't really very much money at all.

You should buy this, y'know.
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Title: Death in videogames
Posted: April 19, 2009 (07:37 AM)
I realise now that I haven't posted about even doing this feature, let alone that it's up.

A couple of months ago I had the idea for a big feature about the philosophy of videogames. Planning this made me realise there were far too many avenues to explore than one feature would allow, so I decided to split it into a series of smaller articles. Then the only thing I could form any real opinions on was the portrayal of death in videogames, so the mammoth essaying became a single feature.

Then I couldn't even be bothered to come up with my own opinions, so got Kieron Gillen, John Walker, Ludwig Keitzmann and Michael Samyn to do most of the talking instead.

The result was a thoroughly fascinating discussion with an abundance of radically different opinions. Kieron and John largely fought the "games as entertainment" floor, arguing that, while it's nice to see mature and moving portrayals of death in games, that most games don't strive to this isn't inherently problematic. Samyn took the opposite view: that games present a terribly closed-minded approach towards the notion of killing, one that reminds him of certain political regimes, and one that only serves to ignore a serious issue. Keitzmann, meanwhile, eschewed much discussion of this, and looked at whether or not player death in games even makes sense in the context of a linear narrative. All were fascinating and well-argued.

The result is this, 2000 words of quotes, commentary and my own thoughts.

I found it all interesting. I hope you will too.
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Title: Not A (Film) Review: Amélie
Posted: April 18, 2009 (11:35 AM)
Here's a quick idea of how much I like Amélie: at the end of it, having watched it for the third time, I had to stop myself from cheering. Even ten minutes in, remembering just why it's such a remarkable piece of work, I wanted nothing more than to press pause and talk about it for hours. If I were to draft up a template for something resembling my ideal film, Amélie's blueprints would be it. It's astonishing.

There are a few reasons why this is the case. Most immediately, it's incredibly uplifting. Anyone who can watch Amélie without a constant, moronic smile plastered across their silly face may be advised to book a slot in the nearest morgue. The tale of one girl's all-encompassing dream to improve the lives of those around her, and eventually - with a little help - that of herself, is enough to melt any ordinary person into a globule of runny sunshine.



This may sound like a simplistic narrative, but the complexity is startling. It's mainly down to the characterisation - set up remarkably well in the opening narration - of some of the most tangible characters ever portrayed in film. Every action, every expression, every word in Amélie is so human. The individual performances push the boundaries of acting into something that might as well be real life, even despite the distinctive art direction. And the script - the English translation of it, at least - is poetically beautiful. But it's the minute details that set this apart from any competitor that springs to mind. Glances. Gestures. Trains of thought. They're everyone's little secret quirks that are usually kept hidden safe inside the confines of our own minds. Amélie doesn't so much wear them on its sleeve as thrust them in your face and surround them with a glowing aura.

It's a film about shameless dreamers, for shameless dreamers.

Artistic but never pompous, every inch of this film is astounding in its perfection. The whole point of starting these Not A Reviews was that I wouldn't have to think about the silliness of putting a number on the end, but this makes me wish I gave a traditional rating. A pure, fucking inspirational, ten out of ten, if I've ever seen one.

***

An important post-script: Audrey Tautou is fucking beautiful.

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