I am not a huge video game afficionado as there have always been activities I’ve preferred (reading, roleplaying, watching movies) and these days I just don’t have the time anyway. However, I have played a few games in my time, often quite good ones (if I only play games occasionally, I always make sure I’m playing something worth while), so I do have at least a few opinions on the subject.
Today, I’m going to discuss some of the neat ideas that I have encountered in the games I’ve played. I’m really looking at unique gimmicks, rather than industry changing concepts, so things like the Wii, while a very good idea, won’t be on this list.
1) The sanity mechanics in Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem
The game itself is quite decent and I enjoyed playing it, but the thing that cements Eternal Darkness’ place in video game history was its method of portraying insanity in the character. Rather than simply showing the character going crazy, it made the player go crazy instead, by popping up random error messages (for example, saying the controller was unplugged when it wasn’t), pretending to reset the Gamecube after a difficult fight, pretending to end the game (including an advert for a fictitious sequel).
2) The visuals in Limbo
Limbo is a puzzle-based platform game that is worth checking out if you don’t have to pay to much for it (it’s good, but short, so not worth a huge outlay). One of the things that allowed it to stand out from other puzzle-based platform games is that the entire game is played in silhouette… visually very cool.
3) The overall concept for Papa Sangre
I mentioned this game in my “top 5 iPad apps” post a little while ago, but it deserves another shout out. The game is played entirely using audio cues, with the display providing only the controls and nothing else. The result of this is that the game is absolutely nerve-wracking; imagine navigating a pitch black room with a sleeping bear in it… that sort of nerve-wracking.
4) Social routes in Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines
Deus Ex was the first big game to offer multiple solutions to problems (trying to get through a door? Find the key, blow it open, take a different route, lure someone out…). However, in these types of game, conversation is rarely available as a solution, as it involves no skill or resource expenditure (unless a bribe is involved). Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines was the first game I came across (and the only one so far, though I’m sure others must exist) that included social skills as something to be improved, alongside fighting, lockpicking, etc… This meant that conversational solutions were finally available as a real option, if the player invested in those skills.
5) Manny’s scythe in Grim Fandango
Grim Fandango came in at the end of the point and click adventure game era (it wasn’t actually point and click itself, but was very much part of the genre). By the time it arrived on the scene, certain tropes were pretty well established, one of them being item usage; all items in your inventory would have a use, one use and then disappear. Occasionally, games would throw in a clever second use or have a red herring that never got used, but otherwise this was a fairly consistent rule. Grim Fandango twisted this around by having Manny’s scythe as a permanent inventory item that was used again and again for all sorts of things. A nice little subversion, I thought.