By Matt Gerardi
Welcome back to The Roundup, the New York Videogame Critics Circle’s weekly look at our members’ writing and news from around the world of videogames. This week, our critics try to tell Rage 2 apart from the glut of post-apocalyptic violence, find a surprising second coming for Flappy Bird, get touchy-feely with Yoshi’s Crafted World, and embrace the videogame-like lore of John Wick.
Another week, another post-apocalypse for our critics to explore. This time it’s Rage 2, id Software and Avalanche Studios’ sequel to the legendary shooter-house’s 2011 sleeper. Christopher Byrd reviewed the game for The Washington Post, calling it a “confidently bland” rehash of the wasteland wandering we’ve done so many times before. Unsurprisingly, Christopher writes, id brings smooth, satisfying gunplay and strings players along with a meaty upgrade system, “but having a better shotgun did little to make me forget that I was playing yet another game set in an overly familiar post-apocalyptic setting with forgettable side activities.”
Gita Jackson echoed similar sentiments at Kotaku. She found the dull desert wasteland—a far cry from the bright, colorful imagery Bethesda used to market the game—disappointing and the whole thing feeling repetitive and familiar. “The mission at hand feels very formulaic,” Gita wrote, “and the fun combat doesn’t quite make up for the lingering feeling that I’ve played a game nearly identical to this many times before.
Flappy Fighter is about as far from Rage 2’s piles of skill trees and vast deserts as a game can get. It’s a minimalist fighting game ingeniously built for smart phones, set apart by a goofy style that combines the chiseled muscle men of Street Fighter with…the bird from Flappy Bird. Jordan Minor praised the game for how well that wacky combination works and how much depth is buried beneath its simplified, tap-based controls. But it is a completely barebones package—with little more than a tutorial, a single character, and a one-on-one fight against an AI opponent—and with the launch of Apple’s gaming subscription around the corner, Jordan reckons a new and improved Flappy Fighter could be a perfect game to help sell the service.
Critics Circle intern Isaac Espinosa took a trip to Yoshi’s Crafted World and came back loving almost everything about it. This is the latest adventure from developer Good-Feel, which has become Nintendo’s go-to partner for super-cute platformers that look like they’re built from real-world materials. Isaac was especially charmed by the game’s broader palette—more wood and cardboard and tape and plastics—and warmth, writing “It’s so welcoming, it can allow players to immerse themselves into this new world in a friendly and calming way.”
Film critics often compare movies to videogames as an insult or a cliche way to explain a certain kind of plot structure, but sharing similarities with games isn’t inherently a bad thing. The acclaimed John Wick series of action movies is a great example. These are stories that start with a simple premise and blaze through a series of escalating fight scenes, each in a distinct, often visually impressive environment. And through it all are glimpses into a wider world of assassins and intrigue that hides below the surface of our everyday lives. Sounds a lot like a game, right? That sense of underlying mythology is one of the series’ most interesting and most videogame-like aspects, and Polygon’s Russ Frushtick published a new article that serves as both a handy guide to the Wick universe and a look at its creation, courtesy of quotes from the film’s original screenwriter.
From Beyond The Circle
Also at Polygon this week, the release of Rage 2 had Chris Plante revisiting a part of the game that had previously greatly troubled him. Just as the original Rage and tons of popular culture has done before, Rage 2 uses imagery evocative of certain facial birth defects to illustrate its mutant characters, many of which are depicted as villainous and sub-human. Chris was born with a cleft lip and cleft palate, and seeing his facial features used to paint characters as monstrous is painful—especially when he brought this exact issue up to Tim Willits, Id Software head honcho, last year and was told the studio would talk about the insensitivity.
Last week, we mentioned new legislation coming out of Washington that, if passed, would allow the FTC to have some control over certain kinds of micro-transactions and game systems it deems exploitative of children. The folks at GamesIndustry.biz asked a handful of experts about the policy and what it could mean for the industry if it ever materialized. The biggest takeaway from the story’s various sources is that this threat of regulation may be what it takes for the industry to self-regulate, which is exactly what happened with the formation of the ESRB and, as several of these experts argue, should happen in this case, too.
In NYC gaming news, yesterday was Global Accessibility Awareness Day, and to celebrate, Senator Roxanne J. Persaud, who represents the southeastern Brooklyn communities of New York’s 19th Senatorial District, combined forces with the AbleGamers Charity, Knicks Gaming, and the Center for Educational Innovation to host an event all about accessibility in gaming. Members of AbleGamers were on hand to show off innovations in gaming accessibility that allow more people to play together and spread awareness of these important technologies.
And finally, here’s your reminder that the NYU Game Center’s 2019 showcase is coming up next Thursday at the Metrotech Center in Brooklyn. This annual exhibition highlights the creations of the Center’s graduate and undergraduate students and includes videogames, board games, and experimental projects of all shapes and sizes. It’s one of the New York game scene’s most exciting events of the year, and best of all, it’s open to the public for free. Be sure to reserve your spot here.
That’s all for this week. Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you next week!
Matt Gerardi is a writer from New York, the former games editor at The A.V. Club, and a member of the New York Videogame Critics Circle.