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    • CommentAuthorimmaterial
    • CommentTimeDec 1st 2007 edited
    I found something wonderful, and I'm curious to know if there's anything else like it.

    At the ripe old age of 36 I finally (last Christmas) purchased a video game console, something I thought I'd never do. The Playstation 3 had just been released, so I thought the time was right to get myself the previous gen Playstation 2 and satisfy my curiousity about some of the titles available for the system.

    I've always been first and foremost a text adventure fan, because I can't help thinking that there's potential for something wonderful in that form. Apart from that I was mostly drawn to adventure games -- exploration, some potential for story and atmosphere more than running and killing -- but some of the horror titles looked as though they might have enough atmosphere to make all that killing worthwhile. I was specifically interested in a thing called Rule Of Rose that wound up being banned in Britain because it depicted orphan children engaged in cruelty to animals and one another. Edward Gorey stuff, basically, without the humour or much of the charm.

    Then I read about a thing called Shadow Of The Colossus, and its prequel ICO.

    Shadow of the Colossus ICO -- note that this is the Japanese box art, which mimics a painting by de Chirico (Nostalgia of the Infinite)

    Having sought out copies of both of them, I can now say that these two games alone make owning a Playstation worthwhile. ICO basically takes place in Gormenghast Castle, while Colossus pits you against enormous stone and earth creatures who you must literally mountain-climb (as they try to shake you off) in order to kill -- and then when you do kill them, you feel bad about it because they're so goddamned beautiful. I mean, you feel like you've murdered a whale, which is just what designer Fumito Ueda wants you to feel. Both games are the product of the same eccentric Japanese designer; both contain stunning environments, truly lovely background music, and a pervasive sense of melancholy; both are strangely minimalist (there's no distracting heads-up display to distract from the immersive experience of the gameworld itself).

    The nearest I can come to explaining their appeal is that, though they are wonderful to play, the overall effect of each is more that of an art installation than a game. Perfect, elegant game design, and as far as I know there's nothing else quite like them.

    On the other hand, I've already got them, so I don't need anything else like them. What I'm wondering is, can anyone recommend any other games, for any platform -- pc, console, even rpgs or role playing games -- that just stand eccentrically apart, doing their own weird thing? Or simply wonderful games that have somehow managed to be overlooked?

    Anyone got any cult games or games that deserve cult attention? A game I'm very fond, actually, is one that Warren was involved with called Hostile Waters. It's the kind of thing I probably never would have gravitated toward it if he hadn't been involved, so as far as I know it might not even be particularly original or well-regarded, but I keep going back to it.

    • CommentAuthorGraham
    • CommentTimeDec 1st 2007 edited
    Rez, a Sega Dreamcast game also released for PlayStation 2 and coming to XBox Live on 360 in 2008.

    It's set inside a futuristic computer network, where the controlling AI, called Eden, has become overwhelmed with the amount of information available on the network and, essentially, has suffered an existential crisis. The player takes control of a hacker making his way through the systems of the network to solve the problem. A rail-shooter, you don't control movement. You only choose where to shoot as you traverse a polygonal, abstract mindscape.


    It's a metaphor of spiritual revival. It's last section is a re-telling of the creationist myth, shifting from the primordial ooze to single cell organisms to mountains being formed to creatures crawling forth from the water, and so on.

    Each enemy destroyed by the player changes the music, adding instruments and notes. It creates a form of synasthesia, blending player action with an evolving, atmospheric trance soundtrack.

    It's intensely beautiful. No one bought it. Videos of the entire game are available on YouTube, should you want to see it in motion. (I'd link to a list of the videos, but for some reason doing so screws up the template).

    In Japan, the PlayStation 2 version of the game was sold with a Trance Vibrator that pulsed along with the music. It was business-card sized, shook far more violently than the standard Dual Shock controller, and can reportedly be used as a masturbatory aid.
  1.  (77.3)
    Westwood's Blade Runner PC game was amazing for the time.

    Also, Planescape: Torment

    Both of those featured storylines that shifted with your choices and a lot of text. I like my RPGs to be interactive novels, and both of those were full of win.
  2.  (77.4)
    Does Eternal Darkness for the gamecube count? None of my friends who play video games seem to have ever heard of it. It's the only really good interpretation of Lovecraftian cosmic horror in a video game format. I think a lot of people have missed it by virtue of it being only on the Gamecube. I really enjoyed it, and I'm playing it again now because my girlfriend bought a Wii and it's backwards compatible with Gamecube discs.
  3.  (77.5)
    In terms of the "cult" experience, you probably can't have a much more appropriate title than Squaresoft's 1998 bugfuck-crazy Playstation 1 game, Xenogears. Not so much a game as a vehicle for mytho-psychological narrative told through Judeo-Christian iconography with giant robots and The Empire Strikes Back references. I'm not even sure if the game is technically complete, since most of the second disc is short gameplay stints between long narrative scenes that play out various aspects of the characters' psychodrama.

    Like the anime series (that Xenogears creators say somehow did not influence them at all, which I find insanely unlikely) Neon Genesis Evangelion, the cult-base seems to be driven by fans with conspiracy-like theories of how the narrative and Judeo-Christian iconography "work," rather than recognizing these as metaphors, settings through which psychological bugbears are confronted as physical ones. But let's face it, when you make a game where the giant anthropomorphic robots the characters ride in are literally crucified, you should probably expect a weird response from fans of your weird game.

    Avoid it's spiritual successor from Monolith Soft, Xenosaga, for the PS2, like the plague.
    • CommentTimeDec 1st 2007
    I never played Ico, but Shadow of the Colossus is probably one of the best games ever made.
    • CommentTimeDec 1st 2007
    Eternal Darkness was great! I know a few games since (any before? Not sure...) have used the sanity meter thing (first time it did one of those mock crashes sent me into a panic) but that really was a classy game. I started playing it after a boyfriend kept getting pissy at me for figuring out the puzzles and stealing the controller. And I've hit that wall of raving to people about it only to be met with a blank expression.
    ICO was also a pleasure to play, a different gaming experience than I was used to.

    Actually, I did quite like a game called Evil Twin. It wasn't amazing, but I loved the look and it was quite fun.

    Also, did anyone play American McGee's Alice? It looked like it'd be rad, but I could never find it.
    • CommentTimeDec 1st 2007
    Anyone else feel really sad for Colossi? Beautiful game, though.

    Maybe it doesn't have the same 'high art' quality of Shadow, but in terms of beauty, great music, and challenging gameplay (if you want to be perfect) - I have to recommend Ikaruga for the GameCube. Phenomenal.
    • CommentTimeDec 1st 2007
    Oh god yeah! Eternal Darkness was pretty amazing.
    • CommentTimeDec 1st 2007
    Does Fallout or Fallout 2 fall into this category? Because I freakin' loved that game. As well as Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura.

    Baldur's Gate II? Oblivion? Damnit. I need to stop talking about this, I don't even own a PC anymore.
    • CommentTimeDec 1st 2007 edited
    As you have a PS2 I'll stick to games for that,

    We Love Katamari is just mental, you basically just roll stuff up into a big ball around the room, sounds weird but trust me it's addictive

    Killer 7 is a very hard very odd on railsish shooter, It's a prequel of sorts to the upcoming No More Heroes on the Wii.

    Gregory Horror Show, a strange adventure wandering a hotel and solving puzzles, very cartoony graphics

    and Finally Okami, a game I'm just about to start but sounds like something you would like.

    oh and I haven't played but I'm reliably informed that psychonaughts by Tim Schaffer of Day of The tentacle and all those point and click adventures is fantastic

    These are all quirky games that did well critically but no-one seemed to buy, Okami is the most succesfull and is due a wii update shortly
      CommentAuthorMike Black
    • CommentTimeDec 1st 2007 edited
    As far as "cult" goes:

    Stretch Panic
    Stretch Panic
    • CommentAuthorCraigRJ
    • CommentTimeDec 1st 2007
    For me Ico beats out Shadow of the Colossus because as well as having the responsibility of looking after Yorda, it doesn't drag in the travelling between Colossi - whatever you do in Ico though, don't switch off when the credits run, wait until the very end...

    Best. Game. Ever.

    And I'm a XBOX (now 360) freak, so it hurts to say it's better than Halo.


    Eternal Darkness - brilliant. Especially the (in)sanity effects, which make you think you've screwed up...or your controller is unplugged...or the console has crashed...or another three dozen effects.


    American McGee's Alice starts off brilliantly, with the scene set with a well-written diary of descent into madness in the game box, but the game just doesn't live up to it - lots of imagination in the levels and characters, but it plays like a bog-standard platformer for much of the time.
  4.  (77.14)
    How about this:

    grim fandango box cover
    • CommentTimeDec 1st 2007
    the game just doesn't live up to it - lots of imagination in the levels and characters, but it plays like a bog-standard platformer for much of the time.

    Dang. Sounds like my old report cards. "Very disappointing result, as she clearly has a great deal of potential."
  5.  (77.16)
    Great responses -- Many of these titles are new to me, and sound very interesting indeed. I'm definitely going to check some of them out.

    I just remembered another odd one.

    The Neverhood was published by Dreamworks Interactive, and as far as game mechanics were concerned it was just a sidescrolling adventure game. Where it was significantly different, though, was that the entire game -- your player character, all the other creatures and every environment -- was entirely handsculpted out of clay. People who consider stop motion animation an art form (and anyone who knows the Quay Brothers or has seen Susie Templeton's new Peter And The Wolf film does), and have an appreciation for the effort it involves, have to give the game some credit on that basis alone.

    box art
    • CommentAuthorElohim
    • CommentTimeDec 1st 2007
    Deus Ex (PC) was an awesome game, as was Hogs of War (PS) - both for completely different reasons...
    • CommentTimeDec 1st 2007
    Whoa, Neverhood. I have to get my hands on a copy of that.
    • CommentAuthorpi8you
    • CommentTimeDec 1st 2007
    Wholeheartedly reaffirming:
    Shadow of the Colossus
    Eternal Darkness
    Planescape Torment
    Katamari(whole friggin' series)
    Killer 7
    Okami(now coming to the Wii!)

    Adding on:
    Beyond Good & Evil
    Shadow Hearts
    Disgaea + other Nippon Ichi Software Strategy RPGs
    Guilty Gear(series)

    and I'll probably be back for more, but its time to leave work.

    RE: Alice - never made it all the way through, reasonably enjoyable game with some nice dark humor, but I particularly couldn't say if it holds up nowadays.
  6.  (77.20)
    Yes to Grim Fandango, and probably anything else by Tim Schafer. At the very least, check out Psychonauts, which is available for the PS2.