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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: Resolution Issue 5!
Posted: March 30, 2009 (03:43 AM)
It's here.

The issue in a nutshell:

The Special Report
Is The Path really a disgusting rape sim?

16-Bit Boy: Psycho Gaming
Do certain multiplayer games turn us into angry souls?

Dwarf Fortress Diary
The first in a multi-part series documenting the madness of Dwarf Fortress.

The Hero
Can inferior games sometimes provide the most lasting memories?

First Impressions: Quake Live
Should we be quaking in our boots?

Resident Evil 5 - 82%
Empire: Total War - 89%
Street Fighter IV - 90%
Killzone 2 - 91%
Halo Wars - 87%
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II - 90%
Flower - 87%
Men of War - 80%
Tom Clancy's HAWX - 70%
Ceville - 57%
Shifter's Box - 70%

...Do still read the words, even though you know the scores!
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Title: Not A Review: Cryostasis
Posted: March 29, 2009 (04:40 AM)
Very much Not A Review for this one. I'm only a few hours in and, tasked with writing about it for another site, I don't want to divulge too much information elsewhere just yet. It's also a game I'm still fairly undecided about, and the coming hours are going to very much dictate which direction I'm going to go with this.

One thing's for sure: Eastern Europe churns out some fucking weird games. Cryostasis is one of the less ambitious examples, but it's still unlike anything we're ever likely to see coming out of the major studios in the UK, North America or Japan. It flies around and chops back and forth through time as frequently as Lost. It might even be just as bizarre and confusing.

It took me a while to work out what Cryostasis was doing. Upon first starting the game, I thought it was one of the worst openings in the medium's history, dropping you straight into a rusty, deserted old ship without any explanation of what was going on. I found some dead bodies. I fought a zombie. Then the flashbacks started: weird snippets of what happened before. And only then, half an hour in, did the game whizz me back to the arctic, traversing through a blizzard, with a note to find an icebreaker, The North Wind, stuck in a glacier, unable to move from its position. I was to help the crew get the ship going again.

This walk to the game's primary location is surreal. I've never seen anything like it in a game. It's idiotically slow, with lead character Alexander Nesterov trudging forwards, barely able to see, disorientated, the harsh winds constantly thrusting you sideways. If you stop, you get caught up in the blusters and shift precariously to the right. You're constantly battling the elements. The speed is frustrating, but relevant and impressive. It makes for a nice snapshot of what playing this oddball first-person survival horror game is like.

The whole thing is glacial - not just in temperature, but in pacing too. Cryostasis' walk speed is what most games would call "sneak" and its run is barely a slow jog. Besides, it's best to conserve energy for the moments it's really required: you can only run for a few seconds at a time, before your stamina bar reaches zero, and you need to rest by a source of heat to move quickly again. The same system is employed in place of health mechanics: here, enemies aren't strong enough to do you any serious physical damage, but they are cold enough to freeze you to death when they touch you. Only by keeping warm do you have any chance of survival.

It keeps the tension sky-high. A stark contrast to the current trend of health regeneration, where stopping for a breather cures most ailments, Cryostasis demands you keep pushing onwards, into whatever horrors await, in the hope that there's a desk lamp or flare in the coming rooms. The majority of the ship is cold enough to gradually drain your health to depletion, and only in these brief areas of respite are you truly safe from the environment. It's an agreeably terrifying tactic.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Cryostasis, though, is its unique time-travel system. It's not explained why (or hasn't been yet, at least), but Nesterov is blessed with the ability to travel back in time and enter the bodies of the corpses he finds scattered about the North Wind. This is where Cryostasis' puzzles come into play. That corridor ahead is frozen solid? Touch the corpse lodged in the ice and zoom back to when this all started, bolt that door shut just in time, and stop the water flooding in. Back to the present day, and it's the corridor behind you that's blocked, not the one ahead.

The system proves repetitive, despite how interesting it is as an idea. I hope it does something different later on, because it's not quite meeting its potential yet. I'd like to see big, multi-faceted puzzles taking place over a number of different time periods. If it can manage that, I'll be very happy indeed.

More impressive are some of the set-pieces. An early one sees you manning a small rubber dinghy around a flooded area of the ship, when a zombie dives into the water from above. On the journey, he periodically grabs your boat, shoves you aside, and eventually clambers aboard with you. It's a genuinely scary sequence, one that doesn't rely solely on jump tactics to convey its sense of fear. Elsewhere, things get a bit Doom 3 - enemies spawning behind you, jumping out of holes or crashing up through the ice when you least expect it - but if it can continue to pull off the finer moments of suspense, I doubt I'll care about the cheap boo moments.

It'll be interesting to see where this journey takes me next. It's certainly flawed in many aspects - the repetition, the nasty combat mechanics and the variable visual performance spring to mind as real problems - but it's without a doubt the most interesting game I've played this year. And if Action Forms can refine these things, either later in the game or in a subsequent release, they could prove to be a very special developer indeed.
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Title: The Resolution Podcast
Posted: March 27, 2009 (03:54 AM)
...has been recorded, edited, and is now uploading.

This month's show sees myself and J.D. Richardson getting a bit silly-drunk, arguing about a lot of games, and not recognising the names of incredibly influential and well-respected game designers.

Online for your listening pleasure soon, kids.

EDIT: Here it is!
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Title: Does anyone else think that...
Posted: March 26, 2009 (05:42 AM)
...Still Alive is actually a really fucking good song?
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Title: Reso Panic!
Posted: March 26, 2009 (03:33 AM)
It's Reso podcast recording day today. Or rather, tonight. Other commitments dictate we have to do this month's the day before deadline, meaning A) my workload has just increased again, and B) I'm having to plan the show without having read everyone's copy, and without knowing what sort of reviews all the games are getting.

I think I know the scores for most of them, at least. Except one enormous release that Pete Hulme is rush-playing for deadline. His initial response was "very disappointing," but that was only after a couple of hours. What game could that be? Hmm?

This issue is teetering towards a huge precipice. We should have loads of awesome stuff in it. But deadline day is fast approaching and there are problems. Interviewees not responding to questions, games coming in just days before the copy needs to be finalised... it's all a bit hectic and mad. This is what the new issue, out on Monday, should look like:

The Special Report - What is this sick rape simulator?

16 Bit Boy retro column.

Politics in Videogames

The Hero (might be familiar to some Honest Gamers...)

Dwarf Fortress Diary, Part 1

First Impressions: Quake Live

Resident Evil 5
Empire: Total War
Street Fighter IV
Killzone 2
Halo Wars
Dawn of War II
Tom Clancy's HAWX
Men of War
Shifter's Box
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Title: Blast from the Past
Posted: March 25, 2009 (10:45 AM)
I'm buying a Playstation 2 tonight. I sold my last one for fuck all pounds a couple of years ago when I was skint, and my girlfriend's been nagging me ever since to get another one.

Someone is being kind enough to sell us one, with four games, for 30. Mad skills. It'll be interesting to see what I can pick up for it - and I can finally play the Persona series. Hooray!
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Title: A New Crazy Denby Site, and a rare Not A (Film) Review
Posted: March 25, 2009 (06:46 AM)
I've set up a new blog for a more general collection of my nonsense thoughts. Will probably be cross-posting and linking a lot, though, and will be remanining very firmly here as well.

On this new page, I've just written the first real piece I've ever done about film. Or, at least, the first piece about a specific film. Not A Review has spanned into another dimension...

"Hallam Foe makes for some uncomfortable viewing. There's an odd incongruency between the dark, grizzly themes of the film, and the regularly upbeat, trivial manner with which they're dealt. It's a piece about depression, suicide, voyeuristic addiction and latent necrophilia. But it's delivered with an awkward ease and nonchalance. The result is a remarkably strange film that seems to have very little to say, or at least be confused about what its core messages are."

Do click the linky to have a read. It's a film that's really worth checking out (don't know how available it is Stateside), even though it didn't quite gel with me.

And do feel free to post comments over there, or keep checking that site if you're interested in what I get up to outside of games.
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Title: The Nameless Mod
Posted: March 24, 2009 (10:56 AM)
...is really worth playing if you have a PC copy of Deus Ex.

Read my thoughts by clicking on that link over there. I'm so lazy I can't be bothered hyperlinking.

I'm also desperate for a poo.
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Title: Competition
Posted: March 24, 2009 (06:09 AM)
Does it seem like a feasible time to start a reviews competition? Has anyone else got one planned? Am I stepping on anyone's shoes? Is everyone too busy already? Am I worrying too much?
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Title: This week
Posted: March 24, 2009 (04:38 AM)
This week, my workload includes:

The Nameless Mod review for here.

Wallace & Gromit's Grand Adventures: Fright of the Bumblebees review for here.

Mevo & The Grooveriders review for here.

New Redjetson album review for The Line of Best Fit.

Big feature about death in videogames for Reso, including the part were I have to interview three different people before I even think about starting writing the thousand words.

The Special Report column for Reso, including the bit where I figure out what to write about this month.

Editor's column for Reso.

Editing down about 30,000 words of Reso stuff into a handy, bite-sized e-zine.

Recording a podcast.

Working out why Neptune Alpha 2.0 absolutely refuses to launch on anyone's machine.

...then sleeping. A lot.
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Title: Potential best line in a videogame ever
Posted: March 21, 2009 (01:17 PM)
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Title: Lewis' guide to No Longer Looking Like A Tramp
Posted: March 20, 2009 (12:21 PM)
Step 1: Observe huge beard and ludicrous hair. Accept need to change.

Step 2: Hack away at beard.

Step 3: Be sure to leave a careful amount of manly stubble. This is essential in the period between beard-shaving and hair-cutting, particularly if - like me - you have a tendency to look slightly feminine with long hair but without beard.

Step 4: Get hair cut properly. End of homeless-esque days.

Title: Rapey McGee
Posted: March 20, 2009 (03:27 AM)
The Path came out yesterday, to a venerable force of Angry Internet Men, lying in wait. And an equally enthusiastic bulge of fanatics, defending its beauty at every turn. The result is as follows: the internet has exploded.

I must say, I never expected The Path to generate such enormous and heated debate. It's a tiny little indie game from Belgium. And the whole world is going on about it.

Viewpoints seem to range from "ban this sick filth" to "favourite game of the year." In other words: the sort of arguments usually reserved for Rockstar's games. Only this is a weird little piece of art that hardly anyone had heard of until the last couple of weeks. While I disagree vehemently with the former comments, I must commend everyone for paying far more attention to this game than I ever dared hope.

The negative comments seem to be coming from two angles. Firstly, that the game is buggy. Personally, I didn't have any serious problems with it, but there are a number of people for whom the game simply won't work, crashing to desktop as soon as they launch it, even if their system specs are up to scratch. That's poor, I'll have to concede that. Hopefully it'll be patched soon enough.

The second argument is a more intriguing one. A large number of people think this is a game where you get six little girls raped and murdered.

The origin of this is worrying. Alex Lucard of Diehard GameFAN wrote a review of The Path a couple of weeks back. He hated the game. Absolutely hated it. He said it failed as both a piece of art and a videogame. And, in one section of his review, he expressed concerns that some of its themes may spark up the "videogame content" row again. "People are going to assume it's a rape sim, because of its heavy allusions to sexual violence throughout," he said. Or, y'know, I paraphrase. Because I can't be bothered going back and carefully reading it.

Since then, I've seen three people (mis)quoting the review to express their disgust at the "graphic sexual violence" in the game, and another person "agree that the only people who like the game must be paedophiles." I've seen roughly six million more immediately assume it's a game about rape, even though they haven't played it.

This is deeply troubling, and Alex is disappointed - even though I maintain he could have been more careful with the wording of his review. Those misquotes are bizarre - "you never see what happens to these girls," Alex's piece states, "but they appear battered and injured afterwards." The paedophilia comment is awful, and Alex was very quick to put that poster in his place. The "game is about rape" comments are a more difficult prospect.

I think, on two occasions, it's heavily implied. On at least another three, I can't spot any suggestion of it whatsoever. One of the wolves actually is a fucking wolf. Another is a young girl in a red dress, around seven or eight years old by estimate. Another is a spectral being.

Which makes me wonder if people have just looked at, say, Ruby's chapter, and drawn immediate conclusions.

Alex interpreted it all as rape, of course. But he's eloquently explained why this is the case, and happily accepted that it may not be the only, or even intentional, meaning. But that's to me, personally, since the review. I really wish there was more tact put into his original piece. Because it's going to be used as the basis to a lot of awful arguments that we need to stop immediately.

I'd urge people to buy this. It's really, really cheap. $10. You might hate it. You might be repulsed by it. But at least you'll be able to see how plainly obviously it isn't a rape sim. And then maybe we can all be better prepared for the inevitible onslaught of media bollocks.


UPDATES: Ah! I'm sick and twisted for liking it, according to some chap over at Penny Arcade! Nice to see my work is doing the rounds.
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Title: A bit of blow.
Posted: March 19, 2009 (04:35 AM)
As a quick aside, this week's Zero Punctuation over at Escapist is probably the funniest one he's done in a long time. Czech it out.

So: films.

It's funny. I never talk about film on here. I probably have more authority to do so than games, what with me studying film and all, but it's something I tend to keep very academic. I really should voice my views a bit more. After all, prolific film philosopher Aaron Meskin praised my ideas about the notion of movie authorship during a workshop yesterday, which made me feel all fuzzy. How pathetic am I?

Anyway. A few years late to the fold, perhaps, but on the recommendation of my girlfriend I watched Blow last night. We're both deeply interested in film. When we watch one - a good one, in particular - there tends to follow a period of about ten minutes where we don't say anything about it. Then we have some sort of mammoth discussion about is qualities and themes.

Last night, we just talked about cocaine. Not the film, really - Collette loves it (the film, not coke), but I'm genuinely not sure what to think. So this is some sort of vague attempt to get my thoughts in order.

Most notable was my reaction while watching it. I found it particularly uncomfortable vieweing, but I can't quite discern why. The general subject matter might be the most obvious reason. With me operating quite a lot in the music scene, there's a lot of coke about. Particularly last year. There's a line (ha!) in the film when Johnny Depp says "Everyone was doing blow." That's kind of how it is, occasionally, in certain circles I'm on the periphery of. In my group of friends, I'd go as far as to say there are very few people who haven't at least tried it. There are people I know who take a lot of it. Which is why watching something like Blow hits home a little harder than I'm comfortable with.

I watched a documentary by Blur's Alex James last year, in which he travelled to Colombia to do some inside reporting about the industry. A former addict himself, he was deeply disturbed by how coldly violent the cocaine vocation is. Blow does an excellent job of capturing that. If I didn't know the truth of the matter, I'd have probably thought the film seemed sensationalist, but it's not. It's surprisingly accurate. And that makes for scarier viewing than any horror film.

It's also strange how "drug-films" make me feel. They have a tendency of activating some sort of my brain that responds to the drug in question. Whenever I watch Zach Braff's excellent Garden State, the party scene makes me feel like I'm on ecstasy. That's a more obvious one - his character has taken a pill, and it's viewed "through his eyes". Blow is different - more removed and objective - but I still spend the majority of the film feeling on-edge and hyped up. I don't know whether that was an intentional ploy, or just a result of my being weird.

So the whole thing felt very awkward. I didn't really enjoy watching it. And I'm not sure what I'm supposed to take from it - it didn't open my eyes to anything, as it's stuff I already knew, and I'm aware that the filmmakers took a lot of artistic liberty to alter what is supposedly a "true story". George Jung is a really terrible, awful man. That the film nicens him a little (conveniently glossing over the fact that, having served his sentence and supposedly regretting everything, he immediately went back out there and attempted to move 2,000,000 of cannabis, getting locked back up in the process) didn't sit nicely with me.

This experiment didn't work. I've still no idea what I think of the film. Anyone else seen it?
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Title: Database Goes Apeshit!
Posted: March 16, 2009 (03:25 AM)
From the top-right of the site, just now:

Check out a selection from our database of more than 5000 reviews! has weighed in on for the and figures it rates out of 10.
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