Mark Kelly – 5 Games to Spend the Winter With


I thought I would join my compatriots on their winter train and share some of the games that will be keeping me relatively sane over this holiday season. Nothing too fancy, but I’m hoping that these suggestions help to keep you entertained while you warm your toes by your Netflix fire.


#5Dark Souls – PC/PS3/Xbox 360, 2011


For fans of: Demon’s Soul, Castlevania and emotional scaring

Risky selection, I know. While most of you might not place relaxation and Dark Souls in the same sentence, let alone thought, rest assured that this game will allow you to work through some of your most heavily entrenched gaming demons (pun mostly intended). Dark Souls is an action RPG at its core. It relies heavily on the “learn by dying” teaching mechanic which some might initially find more frustrating than rewarding, but I can assure this tough love style of game play is laying a fairly serious foundation for player reward. The game allows you an actual sense of accomplishment as you lay waste to minions and bosses. “What’s this? You died seventeen times during this boss fight as opposed to the twenty-eight during the previous boss? Pop them bottles! We’re celebrating!”

More than any other recent game (Demon’s Soul excluded) Dark Souls is a champion to the old school games of the early 8-bit generation. Only slightly easier than those games since Dark Souls actually allows you to save your progress. You might be shaking your head at your screen right now telling yourself that this game sounds like an exercise in the gentle art of “How to throw your controller passionately” you would be skimming over the experience. If you take a moment to reflect, this experience is no different that throwing quarters into a Pac-man machine only to watch Blinky, Inky, Pinky and Clyde chase you into a corner and chomp the ever loving live out of you!


#4FTL: Faster Than Light – PC, 2012


For fans of: X-Com, RTS or rougelike games

Continuing on with the “tough love” gaming motif, I present one of the most pleasantly addictive games that I’ve played in the last few years. FTL is a top down space RTS. You start your game rouge ship fleeing a rebel fleet bent on dominating what’s left of the shambled galactic empire. Your job is to make it to the Galactic Federation headquarters to warn them of the oncoming onslaught. All the while staying ahead of the ever encroaching rebel forces, maneuver through obstacles and picking up resources and weapons to outfit your ship with. How well you’ve supplied your ship will show in the inevitable battle to hold the line at Galactic Federation Headquarters where you will undoubtedly destroy the rebels and save the Federation single-handedly! Yeah… Good luck with that.


#3Papers Please – PC, 2013


For fans of: Tetris, Spot the difference games and working for the weekend

While waiting in line at the airport to have your luggage rummaged through and x-rayed by the TSA, has it ever occurred to you that traveling had gotten a bit too easy? Don’t you wish that things could go back to the way they were in the early eighties when the world was at the height of the Cold War and everything was “more secure”? Well, wish no longer and prepare your cavities for examination! Papers Please is the game you’ve been waiting for!

Complete with x-rays, armed border guards, espionage, assassinations and paperwork processing, the basis of the game revolve around you, an immigration inspector, processing the papers of people wishing to enter your beautiful Arstotzka (Glory to Arstotzka!). Your job is to process as many people as efficiently as possible. Making poor judgments will get you citations that will reduce your pay. Pay that you desperately need to support your family warm and fed with a roof over their head. You will be approached throughout your workday by various shady characters and government officials asking for favors, seducing you with bribes to cross the border or to test your loyalty to beautiful Arstotzka (Glory to Arstotzka!). It’s up to you to make the appropriate decision to support your country, your family or yourself.


#2Prison Architect – PC, 2012


For fans of: Roller Coaster Tycoon, SimCity, Cities XL

Prison Architect is a construction and management sim where you, just as the name suggests, build and maintain as prison. This game may still be in Alpha but don’t let that deter you from picking up this gem and spending your evening dealing with some of the most adorable murders, pimps and drug lords as they toil for their troubles for enjoyment. With this month’s release of Alpha 16 they’ve helped further incorporate the Steam Workshop giving you greater access to community generated prisons and mods to enhance your overall game.


#1The Walking Dead – PC/PS3/Xbox 360, 2012


For fans of: Back to the Future The Game, Myst, Police Quest

My number one pick for this frigid season is the game that will have your emotions in knots after each episode. The Walking Dead game, book and the show all follow the similar premise; a group of people dealing with an apocalyptic world while trying to handle the inhuman situation that they’re asked to perform based solely on the need to survive. Where the game differs from the show and the books is that it asks you to react immediately to these situations, presented in game as multiple choice for you to choose from quickly, and then to deal with those consequences. While that may sound like an easy task now, I cannot express how you’ll cycle through a myriad of emotions every time you’re asked to make a tough decision only to have the computer remind you that a character “will remember that”. Good or bad it’s a decision you’ll be living with for the duration.

With the release of The Walking Dead: Season Two, I thought it would be nice to revisit the first installment before moving on making my way into the new story. I had assumed that the majority of the magic would have slipped away after my first couple of playthroughs, but in reality the game held onto the same intensity as it did when I first played it. While the story itself didn’t change, the choice base system allows you to tackle the same story from a different angle. It helps to breathe new life into an already rich story. The characters are just as relatable (I personally believe that the characters in the game are more easily accesssible than the characters in the show), rich and warm as our previous encounters. The same as our situations where just as unavoidable. No matter the emotional state that this game leaves you in you will undoubtedly spend hours thinking about the  decisions you made in game. Leaving you changed by the game in front of you. Isn’t that what art is all about?

Happy Holidays!

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