Before I begin, a note.

I wanted to write something about the swamp of emotions that the George Zimmerman case brought up in me. I do not, at this time, have the words. So I point you to others’ words, others who can say it better than me: Ti Kendrick Hall, bell hooks et al., and this white guy on Facebook. I also recommend checking out this video as a reminder of the state of race (and gender) socialization in America.


And now for something completely different: video game reviews.

Infinity Blade II

Infinity Blade II is a adventure/fighting game for the iPhone. I have not played the original Infinity Blade, also developed for iOS, but I imagine it being pretty similar to this one. Comment below if that is not the case; I’m curious.

This game’s strengths lie in the fighting mechanics and how they interface with the touch screen. Its weaknesses mostly revolves around plot. But let me start at the beginning.


Here’s the story you’re presented with at the beginning of the game: You’re a Dude Warrior. You killed the God-King in the last game, emerged triumphant, and are now chillin’ and chattin’ with  your buddy, Lady Warrior. (Clearly I am awesome at remembering names.) Your enemies are medieval robot zombie guys called the Deathless. You are on a mission to take them out forever, as they are ruling bits of the world in a dictatorial and bad way, and you are determined to reclaim the world for humanity. The ironic bit is, you’re not *entirely* human yourself, as when you die, you just go regenerate for 6 months or so and then pop right back up, ready for fighting.

This makes for a nifty gameplay mechanic in terms of when you die, you get to see yourself waking up in the regeneration place, and you get a screencap that says “6 months later…” and you’re back. There’s actually a logical explanation for dying. There are also many times when you *have* to die. If you’re just fighting a random enemy (they’re called Titans) and get defeated, then you can reload to your last save point (i.e. right before the fight) OR your last regeneration (i.e. beginning of the castle). It’s nice to do that sometimes because it’s a good way to grind for a while and gain XP and gear. Sometimes you have to die, usually after fighting a boss. You’ll unlock a seal thingie in the floor or wall (in your effort to free the mythical dude-who-can-supposedly-help-you, Worker of Secrets), and by “unlock a seal,” I mean, “stick your hand in a hole and then there’s a flash of red light and you die.” This quest, it turns out, would really suck if you weren’t sorta pretend immortal.

The fighting in the game is, to my mind, its strongest point. You start outside the castle where Worker is imprisoned, and wander one of several ways into the castle towards some boss or other, fighting dudes along the way. The graphics are based on the Unreal engine, so as you can imagine, it’s reaaal purdy. There are three types of weapons that you (and enemies) can use: A light weapon with a shield that’s more stabby (a tap to the screen), a heavy two-handed weapon that’s more slashy (a swipe to the screen, often with arrows to point your way), or dual weapons that are mostly about dodging and slashing. You defeat enemies by blocking, parrying, and dodging until you have an opening, as well as using a ultimate power attack and magic, both of which recharge over a period of time. The magic is cool in particular because you trace a sigil in the air in order to cast a particular spell. You also spend time leveling up gear: rings that have different spells attached to them, plus better weapons and armor. There are a few silly weapons in there, too; at one point I had cardboard armor and was slapping baddies with a rolled up newspaper, because that’s the sort of gamer I am.

Here’s my big damn issue with the plot: At the end of the story, (highlight to see the spoilers, y’all) you bring the God-King’s almost-dead body to the Worker of Secrets, who (*gasp! curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!*) leaves you to rot in the pit and buggers off to go be evil. So you are trapped where the Worker of Secrets had been, and then the cut-scene flashes to Lady Warrior, who is standing outside the castle where you had started! I got super-excited! I thought, Hey, now I get to play the game again except I am Lady Warrior going to save Dude Warrior and then we’ll take down the Worker together, omg, this actually has another act and a plot and oooooohhh dang it now the story’s starting all over again, and I’m back to being Dude Warrior at the beginning. Guess replay value means going back as the same character and trying to do the bonus non-story-essential quests I didn’t get to before. And getting some nicer gear. Because, gear. Le sigh.

Just saying, developers, it would have been both easy and satisfying in plot terms to chuck in a second act with Lady Warrior as the viewpoint character. So easy! Damn you all. *Shakes ragefist*

You can get Infinity Blade II for $7. I got it for free at Apple’s 5-year anniversary sale.


Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP

Of all my cell phone games right now, this one wins hard-core. You can get it on iOS, Mac, PC, or Android. I think for Android it’s packaged in the Humble Bundle.


It’s an adventure game, which makes clever use of the rotateable nature of your iDevice, has a killer soundtrack, and a great dry sense of humor. You play the Scythian, who is a warrior (a female warrior, MIGHT I ADD) on a sort of ambiguous quest that’s narrated in little tidbits like, “We spied a few worthless sheep lazing around in a meadow” and “We had heard about the gateway to the infinite at the summit of Mingi Taw & we thought it sounded like something cool to see.” You meet allies, such as a woodsman named Logfella and a dog named Dogfella, and enemies, such as a weird bear that does a creepy dance and a large skullmonster that totally kills the heck out of you. There’s a way to defeat it, don’t worry.

As a whole, the gameplay experience is chill, more about solving puzzles and exploring than it is about fighting, although there is enough sword in with all the sworcery to keep things interesting. There’s good use of mobile/touchscreen tech, although it’s not *so* essential that you couldn’t play this game on a computer and still be satisfied.

It’s awesome, too, because of the social media aspects: you can tweet about where you are in the game really easily, and the company does cool stuff like have fan art fests.

See! Here’s the Scythian and Dogfella, drawn by the radsauce Monica Ray!


You can find out more about it and buy it here! It costs five bucks (less during Steam Sale o’ clock, computer users) and is worth every penny.


Dungeon Raid

This is a puzzle/adventure game. It is totally stupid. I won’t even lie. But it’s addictive and a great game to play while waiting for the bus/waiting in line/sitting awkwardly in the backseat of your partner’s parents’ car while they argue about directions, y’know. Versatile. Fun. Doesn’t require all of your attention. Good stuff.


Here’s the deal: You’re one of eight character classes of adventurer who’s on a quest in a dungeon. You get one of several randomly generated, hilarious backstories at the beginning of the game, which have zero relevance to the gameplay. Then you spend your time connecting up symbols (swords, shields, coins, health potions) to make them disappear and gain their benefits. You also get skills and “level up” your gear, adding attributes like more health and stronger attacks. You defeat monsters, which show up as skull icons. There are a few gameplay modes: an infinite dungeon, a 100-turn dungeon, and a “Pretzel Hero” challenge where you try to connect your icons together using as many loops as possible.

I would say it’s totally worth the $2 I spent on it.