By Ronald Gordon
Greetings and Salutations, we’re back once again for another Roundup, where we take a look at what the Critics Circle had been getting into in the last month or so. This time around we’ve got news from some of our Circles Members & Interns, news on Tickets sales for the Annual Game Awards hosted by the NYVGCC, and some great news from Outside the Circle relating to an event that plenty should be interested in.
With Halloween over and done with and games like Turtle Rock Studios’ Back 4 Blood hitting shelves both physical and virtual, the coming Holiday season has a lot in store for the gaming world. We’ve got plenty of things to save up for when the Christmas bells start ringing, like Jurassic World Evolution 2, Halo: Infinite expected early December, and Pokemon Legends: Arceus expected to arrive late January of 2022. And then there’s Elden Ring, which was featured in lauded preview articles this week. Sounds like an awesome Winter season for Gamers!
Good news! That special time of year has once again come around for the Critics Circle. That’s right, it’s time once again to sell tickets for the Annual Critics Circle Awards Ceremony, marking the 11th year the Awards Ceremony has been hosted! This year will certainly be special, aside from the fact that the Ceremony will be returning to an In-Person event, the Host title will be split between our glorious Founder Harold Goldberg and former President of Nintendo of America Reggie Fils-Aime. The ceremony will be happening on February 1st of 2022, and will be held at the SVA Theatre in Manhattan. Each ticket sold includes a free game and another surprise gift, so be sure to book your tickets now if you want those sweet rewards. We hope to see you there, Vaccination proof in hand!
Starting off the news we have Christopher Byrd, lead game critic for The Washington Post, reviewing an interesting puzzle platformer. Hatinh Interactive’s Tandem: A Tale of Shadows is a beautiful, fascinating game where you follow a girl named Emma and her toy teddy bear. Players can switch between the two and help solve a mystery by moving through the various levels as both characters. “Throughout my playthrough I was surprised by the manner in which I had to position Emma, or move objects around, precisely to cast just the right shadow for Fenton…” wrote Chris in his review, mentioning how the two character’s worlds collide in a surprisingly perfect manner, “If the measure of a good puzzle game is how many “oh wow, this is crazy” moments are packed in it, then Tandem is up there with the best of them. I’d recommend ‘Tandem: A Tale of Shadows’ to anyone who enjoys having their perceptions toyed with.”
Whitney Meers has been quietly toiling for the last few months on a massive project for Newsweek. She researched and wrote the entire special edition on the ever-popular Roblox, and it’s on newsstands right now. Says Meers, “Your kids will LOVE the interviews with YouTubers like CookieSwirlC, Thinknoodles, KREW, MeganPlays, KreekCraft.” Buy it for your favorite young fan, or buy The Official Roblox Field Guide for yourself!
Next up, Circle Member Scott Stein’s report on the new Microsoft Teams updates. The world of virtual meeting spaces for both Business and Pleasure is growing ever stronger by the day, and Microsoft has decided to assist in the growth of this platform. Microsoft Teams will be getting a beta update of a new AR/VR platform, where users will be able to create rooms and interact with each other on more than just their webcams. The author says, “Microsoft’s next step in Teams is taking those avatars and opening up more control for people over their over personal image and identity. The avatars will work in Teams’ 2D modes as an alternative to showing your real face on camera, but they can express reactions and emotions. They’ll also work in 3D immersive spaces that will cross between VR, AR and 2D screens.”
Alyssa Mercante had the chance to give Star Wars: The Old Republic a look on GamesRadar. First launched in 2011, Star Wars: The Old Republic, or SWTOR as it’s commonly known, quickly became one of the most enjoyable and interactive Star Wars games to grace the franchise. With the chance to interact with Charles Boyd, Creative Director of SWTOR, Alyssa heard all about the game and how it affected the franchise and fandom with its constant updates and DLC packages. Sums Alyssa, “No restrictions in a Star Wars universe means creators can make things as beautiful as the Disney Plus series Star Wars: Visions or as in-depth as the multiple DLC packs Star Wars: The Old Republic has added since 2011.”
Jordan Minor, writer for PC Mag, had the chance to step outside and get some fresh air with the new Pikmin Bloom for Android & iOS. Pikmin Bloom is Nintendo’s new AR game, urging Users to take a walk around town while being joined by Pikmin of all colors. But walking isn’t the only feature Pikmin Bloom brings to the table. Jordan writes, “Pikmin Bloom also reminds us that the real world is an inherently social space. You can send postcards to friends or use petals to seed your path. The next time someone else walks that same map route, they’ll reap the benefits of a faster-growing Pikmin garden. It’s like Death Stranding, but much friendlier.”
Circle Board Member and Gaming Legend Reggie Fils-Aimé had a great idea. He decided to sit down and write himself a book about his experiences in the gaming world and what led up to the moment he took the stage as President and Chief Operating Officer at Nintendo of America for many years. From being a Bronx Native to working with one of the biggest gaming companies, Disrupting the Game: From Bronx to the Top of Nintendo can tell you all about Reggie’s life if you’re up for giving it a read when it becomes available on May 24th 2022. You can preorder the book right now on Amazon!
Long time Metroid Fanatic and fellow Senior Intern Isaac Espinosa’s Review of Metroid Dread tells you all you need to know about the spine chilling new addition to the Metroid series. In his review, Isaac recounts the story of Metroid Dread and how it adds onto the already established lore, and even critiques the new E.M.M.I Enemy introduced in Dread. Above all, Isaac talks most in depth about the way the game feels: “The best part of Metroid Dread’s gameplay, however, is the abilities and level design. Like all of the prior Metroid games, Dread has many different power-ups to obtain as you look through the game’s nooks and crannies. Some are familiar pick-ups, such as missiles, screw-attack, and speed booster. But others are new toys to experiment with, such as the phantom cloak, the flash shift, and the cross bombs. These new abilities integrate themselves perfectly into the already large family of power-ups, and offer an experience that makes Dread’s gameplay feel unique and fresh.” Clearly, he’s excited about all the new tactics and strategies Dread brings to the table.
Jade Entien, Intern and Twitch Streamer for the Critics Circle, had the chance to take a relaxing voyage in Sable, a new puzzle game recently released on the Xbox and Microsoft Windows. Following the Rite of Passage voyage taken by a young girl in a mask, Jade mentions in her review that she loved “the vast open-world the game provided and the seemingly endless travel. As I played through Sable, I slowly learned to take my time and appreciate the small things that make up the world Sable, and I, live in.” It’s not everyday that an enjoyable game can also become a learning experience, but Sable was one of those games that taught Jade that the journey is a fundamental part of living life.
Imani Brown, the Circle’s Youngest Writer, starts off his review of WarioWare: Get It Together!, with the words “It’s so speedy!”. Nintendo’s new action game brings with it a whole lot of whacky fun and insane minigames, but most of all it brings a new sense of competitive wonder for our young writer. Imani talks about how “The intensity of the game makes me really kind of competitive. I feel I need to win, and so does everyone else. But even while playing alone, these small, fast game bits take me to another world.” He regales us with the fierce contests he has between his friends when playing WarioWare: Get it Together! Despite being drawn into the games, Imani still has his skepticisms about the full experience but ends his thoughts with “You can’t have everything, but I just wanted some more variety.”
Life is Strange: True Colors left our Intern Jeison Liranzo reeling from the beautiful moments within the game. That’s because it features plenty of moments filled with emotions and superpowered splendor, rightfully so with a protagonist like Alex Chen who has the power to feel what others are feeling. “True Colors was well written and connected all the characters together. We got to see them grow, and we got to feel like detectives because we were on a crime solving mystery where we had to put all pieces of evidence together to solve the crime,” Jeison says. He also details how well the story in True Colors is represented alongside the characters. “You’ll fall in love with all the characters, which is what made the plot twist in the final chapter even more hurtful. True Colors seems just as colorful as real-life – maybe even more so.”
Makeda Byfield, one of our Newest Interns, is a self0proclaimed “Sucker for mystery.” As a new adventure game tasking the player with several quests and challenges to resolve, Apple Arcade’s Baldo: The Guardian Owls would’ve been right up her alley, if not for some nitpicks she found barring her full enjoyment. “Getting through the rooms was time-consuming. I wouldn’t have found it so annoying if the game wasn’t constantly glitching,” writes Makeda. While she started Baldo hopeful that the game would ramp up in enjoyment, she laments that ultimately it did not, writing, “In the end, I decided that it wasn’t worth it. I was up for owls and adventure, but the developers’ inattention to detail and the general confusion that I felt made a wave of anger rise in me whenever I thought of picking up my device for another few hours of play.”
Beyond The Circle
Here in New York and in France, a new event series has been brewing in the background. A French cultural institution by the name of Villa Albertine recently launched their Digital Playgrounds project. As detailed on their website, Digital Playgrounds will feature a broad list of AR/VR events from French folk who get the chance to live here and be mentored for a month. These games include:
A Virtual Reality game called the Cherry Tree Paradigm, where you play as a little girl who breaks the system and tries to change the mindsets of the people around her.
Project Blue Bird, a 2D feminist retelling and modern adaptation of Charles Perrault’s fairytale Bluebeard, seeking to ask questions the original fairytale didn’t and push boundaries that it couldn’t.
Micromegas, a 2D game about two opposite lonely creatures wanting to know why the sky is falling and facing huge machines as the obstacles in their way.
MT Digital is a new immersive Augmented Reality installation, taking up a total of 500-1000 square feet, designed to change local parks and public spaces into an immersive and magical Mountain Top climbing experience.
Mamie Lou/ Nana Lou, a Virtual Reality Interactive Story that puts the Viewer into the shoes of a spirit tasked with comforting and caring for the dying grandmother of a young woman.
Lastly is a Virtual Reality horror game called Mea Culpa, that puts the player in a post-apocalyptic world of giant mutated creatures and terrifying puzzles. They must solve Meta-Puzzles to survive and escape the terrifying beasts before it’s too late.
The event will be hosted during February 2022, as game makers work with mentored and bring their fresh ideas in this wondrous land of ideas that is New York City.