Screencheat might not be at the top of my “loves” as you’ll see in my latest review. But I still felt that it was worth recording some gameplay and showing what makes it unique. Enjoy.
Screencheat might not be at the top of my “loves” as you’ll see in my latest review. But I still felt that it was worth recording some gameplay and showing what makes it unique. Enjoy.
In which, we assemble the gamecell and explore the value of spiritual curiosity. And play curious games.
Prepping for Curiosity
I finished prepping the playlist just before Tim and Tyler showed up early to help me make everything would run well on Steam Big Screen. Mostly, this meant trying out Michael Brough’s Kompendium for the first time and finding out if it’s playable, makes people throw-up, and has a significant amount of 2-player competitive fun as they both try to figure out how to play each competitive minigame. Think Mario Party on a glitched-out Commodore 64. There. You got it! Unfortunately nobody picked Kompendium to play. But that didn’t stop our evening from being delightfully weird.
Jason sat on the porch for 20 minutes in the cold because he forgot to try the doorbell. When we came back up stairs, he realized it was safe to come in. Greg, and Seth were with him by this point. Then a wild Pat Gann appeared! With doughnuts! And Brian came with hot cheese curls. And Vince came with Strawberries and chocolate-covered almonds! Snacks! Our new guy (and special guest for the evening), Austin, joined us. Richie came in around the time Alex Hively did. And then Dakota Williams made it in just before I started handing out late slips. Alex Carter was over an hour late. So we all made him wear the “late hat.” (No, not really. But he did miss out on the good doughnuts.)
We got everybody acquainted and then launched into the first question:
Who’s your favorite musical artist (or band)?
I was impressed by how everybody seemed to give their whole attention as each dude shared their answer. Unsurprisingly, a lot of answers were for game soundtrack composers. Austin and Seth didn’t have answers of their own so we gave them Tori Amos and Pearl Jam respectively. I was proud of how many questions each guys asked when somebody shared about their favorite. Then I asked a semi-obvious question, “Whats your reaction to others’ musical tastes? Does it make you curious?” Then I explained that one’s curiosity for others might be linked to their curiosity for spiritual things.
From 1 to 5, what’s your current curiosity for God and spiritual things?
I told them they didn’t have to answer out loud. But a number of them wanted to. I got a lot of 4/5s and only one 1/5. Still not sure I understood why he said that number because he also said he was really interested in Jesus and believed in him. Anyway, then we recapped about the last two GameCell get-togethers: how we talked about how God is Father who Loves Us. And How Forgiveness is Central to life.
Then I busted out one of my all-time fave bible verse (Matthew 6:33), where Jesus says:
“Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
A lot of guys seemed to think I was talking about floating in the “heavens.” So I tried to bring it back down to earth.
What I should have said was this: “The Kingdom of God is Jesus’ desired movement on the earth in the here and now. It’s the desires of God in the world around us. It’s God’s dreams for us and what he desires.”
Instead, I stumbled over controlling the attention of fourteen young men and talking about the worlds Eternal Life and “Aeon Zoe,” which didn’t appear to make any sense to them. So I tried to bring it back around with question number three:
How curious are you about games?
“Does that curiosity translate to your curiosity for other things?” I was a little surprised to find that a lot of our guys don’t actively pursue news about games. But I wasn’t at all surprised to discover that most of our dudes preferred to find out about games from YouTube folks like PewDiePie and Markiplier. Then I resolved on a final invitation: “How curious are you about videogames? Maybe you need to be more curious? Get curious. More curious than a cat. It won’t kill you.”
Then Pat Gann prayed us out. And we transitioned from my livingroom to the basement. Where the games were.
The GameCell playlist for the evening:
Talos Principle: Public Test (B+)
Austin got curious about the Talos Principle because its cover shows a humanoid robot petting a kitten. The actual game, however, was much more like Portal set in a place that looks more like Skyrim. It involved Austin figuring out how to use advanced technology to solve traversal puzzles. Then, suddenly, a voice started talking to him. It said, “I made you from dust,” and “My name is ELOHIM.” Further exploration made it even more odd. But it was very clear that this game rewarded curiosity.
It was great for a group. But no game would be perfectly easy to keep the attention of fourteen guys. So I decided to change the pace a bit before getting to another game.
Wanna go on a GameChurch Mission Trip to PAX East?
Without explanation, we watched this video.
Then I asked, “How much does this interest you?” In short, this is an opportunity to go to Boston to tell a bunch of people “Jesus loves you,” and then give them free stuff. This was all news to my dudes. And I really wanted to gauge interest. Two guys said they were into it. So for them? Here’s more information: http://gamechurch.com/missions. And here’s more about PAX East.
Next, we were about to feed Pat Gann’s curiosity about A Bird Story. But he had to go. And he relinquished his game-choosing-power to Seth. Seth picked Towerfall Ascension.
Towerfall Ascension (A+)
I’m pretty sure Towerfall is the crown champion of single-screen multiplayer indie games. It might be a fierce competition between it, Samurai Gunn, and Lethal League.
We went for a good five rounds of Headhunters. I felt a little bad for beating everybody in the end. A little bit.
Most of our guys headed out for the night. Because of life, work, responsibility and such. But those who stuck around really wanted to try FARG.
FARG is a same-screen multiplayer arena game very similar to Towerfall, but with a lot more chaotic color and guns. It’s early. But oh man was it wild and fun! Looking forward to seeing the final game when all the edges and balancing is in place.
We finished the night with Bearzerkers.
Jason and Seth really wanted to play Bearzerkers. So we went over our 10pm closing time a bit and tried out the free alpha. In short, everybody’s an armadillo running from a raging panda. Your goal is to screw over other players by getting ahead of them and walling-them-off into a dead end so the bear eats them and not you. Alex Hively didn’t like getting trapped by the other armadillos.
Great night. Much curiosity!
Welcome to a world where beauty goes beyond pixel-deep. You’re in for a treat. Enjoy.
We dive into the chunky abyss with nothing but a bow and illuminating arrows as Samus Everdeen (not her real name).
Knock, knock! Want some links to sweet stuff about redemption in games?
My Journalistic Corruption – Republique Ep3: Ones and Zeroes Review
There are no shoot-outs in strip clubs. There is no face-drilling. In fact, Republique only has a “12+” rating on the App Store. But even so, the weaponization of personal information felt more horrific than anything you do in gorefests like Hotline Miami.
Republique Episode 3 made me sick. In a good way, I think? Maybe? You know what! Just go read my review on Plus 10 Damage.
Horror With a Meaningful Hook – Neverending Nightmares Review
Ever have that dream where you wriggle loose one of your molars and drop it into the sink, hearing the little “tink” as it circles the drain? No? Just me? Well, that one is in here.
Feast your eyes on this unpleasantness at Plus 10 Damage.
Podcast 53 – Halloween
Zach, Josh, and John talk about the most dreaded of all anti-Christian/possibly Christian holidays, Halloween!
I talked about Christian engagement with Halloween and Survival Horror games on Theology Gaming. Go take a listen.
This is a response to a Christian meme that showed up on Facebook. Zachery wrote about it in detail on Theology Gaming.
We just started a brand new show about the redemptive qualities in videogames.
It’s called WHY WE LOVE and it’s a cross between an overview and a let’s play. My goal is to keep them as short as possible but to also take you with me into redemptive play experiences. Our first episode is about Banner Saga. Enjoy!
Josh couldn’t wait for GameCell. He showed up half an hour early and just sat on the front stoop.
We started right on time (seven P.M.). I opened with a story and a question.
“Seventeen years ago, my best friend unleashed a rage on me like I’d never seen. During a round of Goldeneye, He screamed at the top of his lungs, “YOU FREAKING F****T!” Sure, I was screencheating. But that sowed a bitter seed between us that lasted for over a year. It took a long time for us to forgive one another.”
“What was your worst game experience – the time you got the most offended?”
Josh Z, Garrett, Tyler, Tim, Joey, Greg, Seth, Alex H, Jason, Joey, Joey’s friend, Devon, and Wayne listened. Then they remembered of stories of their own.
Wayne didn’t think he had any stories. But “big game hunting” had the word “game” in it, so he shared a story about a man interrupting a serene stare-down with a family of deer by walking up on him and paying no attention to any of the warning signs.
The rest of the guys shared a bunch of stories of times that they got upset at cheaters, hackers, and surprisingly few stories of “noob tubers.”
Time for a quick refresher:
“Two meets ago, we talked about how Jesus wants us to follow him: “Do you want to follow Jesus? Why or why not?” Last time: we talked about how God is a radically loving dad who just wants to welcome you home, give you fine clothes, and throw you a banquet!
Tonight? Let’s get to forgiveness.”
What do you think Jesus says about forgiveness?
We heard thoughts from almost all of the guys. Each dude offered a helpful little chunk. The character of Christ’s forgiveness came up through everybody: namely, God’s forgives our sin, how he tackles our shame, and equips us to forgive ourselves. Tyler unknowingly set me up with Jesus’ parable about how we’re to forgive others from Matthew 18:
The kingdom of God is like a king who decided to square accounts with his servants. As he got under way, one servant was brought before him who had run up a debt of a hundred thousand dollars. He couldn’t pay up, so the king ordered the man, along with his wife, children, and goods, to be auctioned off at the slave market.
“The poor wretch threw himself at the king’s feet and begged, ‘Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.’ Touched by his plea, the king let him off, erasing the debt.
“The servant was no sooner out of the room when he came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him ten dollars. He seized him by the throat and demanded, ‘Pay up. Now!’
“The poor wretch threw himself down and begged, ‘Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.’ But he wouldn’t do it. He had him arrested and put in jail until the debt was paid. When the other servants saw this going on, they were outraged and brought a detailed report to the king.
“The king summoned the man and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave your entire debt when you begged me for mercy. Shouldn’t you be compelled to be merciful to your fellow servant who asked for mercy?’ The king was furious and put the screws to the man until he paid back his entire debt…”
“Do you believe you’re forgiven?”
“Why not forgive everyone? For everything! And yeah, I realize that it seems impossible. But that’s why we’ve got to remember how much we’re forgiven. It makes it a whole lot easier. Maybe it helps to end with a question?”
“Who do you have a hard time forgiving?”
Wayne prayed for our crew. I don’t know if Seth knew Wayne was joking about kneeling as Seth followed Wayne into his silly religious-kneeling pose. We giggled. Wayne sat up and soon spoke freedom from unforgiveness over our dudes. Then he prayed for a fun game time.
Garrett picked Gauntlet and stepped into the shoes of the Valkyrie. Others
As a 2014 reboot of the 1985 classic, Gauntlet actually established a lot of what we love about local multiplayer brawling. End-of-level scoring keeps each player hounding for gold. And when the rooms drown in dregs of the deep, cooperation becomes necessity.
“Don’t shoot the food!” was heard a few times. If somebody shot the food, that meant no health for somebody who probably needs it.
For those playing, the game was pretty solid, minus the fact that four locked-in classes meant not everybody got to play as the character they wanted. To watch? It was kinda boring.
Maybe we’ll only bust this one out in the future if we have small crew of just four people.
Josh Z went straight for Screencheat, the game where everybody is invisible and the only way to win is to peek at their screens. It’s like four-player split-screen Goldeneye, but with better controls, a faster pace, and the requirement of peeking at other player’s screens. Spread-based weapons, and colored maps with lots of landmarks keep the game sharp and focused.
It broke our brains a bit. But as each player got comfortable in the map, we got good at hunting each other down, or camping and watching their movements as they came close. It took a few rounds to figure out how to look at other screens while your own, but the saving grace is that it’s really fun to watch, as your audience can more easily track where each player is and how they are responding to one another.
In addition to colorful worlds, maps, and weapons, the game’s ton takes a cheerier tone with some seriously funny kill notifications:
“YOU GOT KANYE WESTED!”
The joy of Speedrunners is that it uses traditional platforming language as the foundation for four-player racing. Any player that falls behind dies. Last man standing wins a point. Three points to win.
Think sidescrolling Mario Kart with super heroes in ridiculous costumes.
Speedrunners won the evening with it’s sheer party-game effectiveness. Wayne picked it because I made him pick something. The guys talked him into choosing Speedrunners, because I didn’t effectively lead him into a game that didn’t require mechanical skill. It worked fine for them. And Wayne got the controller in hand and pressed a few buttons. Progress.
Stanley Parable A+
Half the guys left. For the half of us that remained, slower and funnier seemed appropriate. Nobody present in our crew played the Stanley Parable when we had a whole night around it last year.
Here’s Jason’s candid response to the Stanley Parable:
The game is a live-action commentary on your decisions as a player. The game doesn’t often go so far as to break the fourth wall, but it flirts with it the whole time. And it really makes players question why they’re doing what they’re doing. And will they obey the “great voice in your head?”
Always a fantastic choice for GameCell. And if anybody is curious about this game, I recommend that you download the standalone demo of the game as it’s probably the best demo of any game (and will spoil absolutely nothing of the main game).
Return of Obra Dinn A-
Before everybody left, I squeaked-in a quick session showing them the ten-minute demo for Return of Obra Dinn. This game is by no means finished, but does some really amazing things with interactive narratives, allowing players to piece together the story based on how they play. Also, the game has a very wild art style. Some might hate it, but I love it.
A wonderful night as always. And in case you were wondering, yes everybody was very forgiving when we played games together!
“Just love and listen.”
This seemed to be what King Daddy was reminding me as I prepped for our Friday Night experience. Questions sat in queue, but I said ready for Him to illuminate the theme: He’s a loving Papa who wants to connect with these dudes.
“What’s the best game experience you ever had with your dad?
“…Or stepdad? Or father-figure?”
Greg, Alex H, Tyler, Vince, Jason, and Alex C shared stories about playing games with papas. It wasn’t really a surprise that their all-time favorite games were often the ones that they played with their dads, stepdads, or father figures.
“What comes to mind when you hear, ‘Father?’”
Each of the guys shared a wealth of thoughts. Then we turned towards the concept of God as Father. We explored the concept together, encouraging an open dialogue. Then I thought one of Jesus’ parables might bring the subject to a head:
A man had two sons. The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons. A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money [on booze and hookers].
About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.
When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.
So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his [patriarch never-has-to-run wealthy-landowner] father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran [full speed, outrunning any of the accusers and naysers] to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’
But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.
“May Vince and I pray into you the Father’s Love? For the party to begin?”
We prayed. Imparted. Then, game time. Vince and Tyler headed out to get snacks. The rest of us slowly transitioned to the downstairs.
Neverending Nightmares (Jason’s pick). B+
Following the theme of Papa God and deeply committed trust, Neverending Nightmares made for a surprisingly-apt pick. Not sure the guys got the thematic connection. But that’s why I’m linking my explanation about it here: The Light of the Cross in Neverending Nightmares. Vince dug the artwork. Our crew seemed to dig the personal-testimony-driven horror. I asked a lot of questions as we played-through to really encourage deeper engagement beyond just “this game is really creepy.”
The biggest reveal was that this game was about empathy for those who deal with self-harm, depression, and obsessive compulsion. Also if you’re in similar shoes, this game exists to bring hope and say “you’re not alone in this.”
Ittle Dew (Tyler’s pick). B+
After the scary and serious, some humor and color came at the right time. Ittle Dew follows the original top-down Zelda games’ almost to a T. But the curt tone and silly parodies of Zelda play through all of the expectations of a similar game. Tyler had a lot of fun playing it. And the rest of our crew had a lot of fun helping him with the puzzles.
Megabyte Punch (Alex C’s pick). B+
Time for something that brews adrenaline – four players at a time. Four players crammed-in on one screen and smashed each other around as customized robots that I had to build-out individually for an ideal combat engagement. The setup was a lot of work. But the payoff was great for our Smash-Bros-trained GameCell duders. Each round got crazier and crazier. But the climax was the enclosed level with a ton of fire-red bumpers that sent you banging into one another (and probably oblivion).
Hatoful Boyfriend. (Alex H’s pick) D+
On the box it sounded great: date pigeons, laugh at fowl jokes. We all did the voices for each new bird. And had two people doing the voice for the teenage girl protagonist who was dating the birds. Problem was that twenty minutes into the game, the only meaningful interaction we had with the game was forwarding non-interactive conversation. No choice. Just push through conversation. It could have been grand. I thought I knew it would be grand. But it almost put us all to sleep. Seriously. Some pigeon puns were funny. But on the fourth “Everybirdie listen up!”, we lost interest. So we quit early and went to a game we knew and loved.
Lethal League (Group pick) A+
Pigeon dating put us to sleep. Lethal League to the rescue! We ended the night on a good note.
In which, we look at stories about Jesus showing up in nightmares (in a good way), fun violent things to do with friends, and why Snow White should get her own game.
Wolf Among Us Season 2 Should Be ‘White Among Us’
Snow White should be the main character in Wolf Among Us: Season 2.
It’s not a stretch. She’s front-and-center in Fables’ second volume, Animal Farm, where Bigby takes a back seat. Snow takes charge on an unannounced visit to The Farm, and has to deal with an unpleasant reality: The Farm is a refugee camp with growing discontent.
Neverending Nightmares – The Light of the Cross In The Midst of Darkness
Horror games aren’t how I like to spend my time. But I have to admit that there’s something about how this game involves Jesus anguish as a part of the story and how he enters into our story.
Matt Gilgenbach highlights in Neverending Nightmares how Jesus felt similar absence from God, but also that tension of maintained relational trust. Jesus chose the cross because he wants to enter into our horror in order to deliver us from it. Perhaps that deliverance extends through us when we enter into others’ horrors as well?
Grand Smash Dunk Slam – Lethal League Review
I gave this game a 9.5/10. Here’s why:
It’s the slam-bam “you got me, man” party-fighter of the year. You’ll love slamming your friends with the Baseball Of Doom. And you’ll kinda like it when they strike it home-run-derby-style right into your throat. I promise. It’s good times. Lethal League turns sleepy-slouchy friends into raging sports-brawlers in seconds flat.