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It’s more than just pixels…

Journey has been getting me to really think about this subject lately; how cinema has pushed games, how it has been pushing games, and how it will be pushing games. What do I mean by push? I mean by “pushing” towards a more cinematic direction. View my evolution slideshow below to see what I mean…

P.S. Make sure to click the caption button in the bottom left so you can see what I have to say.

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Journey – A game that blurs the line between it and film.

I have always disliked the “video games are art” argument.  It has been a weak one with little backing.  To me, a game has always been a game; not art.  My definition of art is something with the ability to move you.  The only game I have played where I recall feeling that has been the Metal Gear Solid series; the fourth one in particular.  But even then, I still felt a bit empty in the end, knowing that the whole time I was playing just a game.  I did not have the inner urge to go back to just appreciate what I experienced.  If you asked me the moment before I played Journey, I would still have this opinion.  If you asked me the moment after, I would be taking that back.

The line blurring started even before this.

It’s difficult to tell where the cutscenes end and where the gameplay begins.  For a three dimensional adventure platformer, the camera is located perfectly.  It’s not too far, it’s not too wide.  Its “over the shoulder” just enough that you don’t quite recognize that this is a game.  You actually feel the cinematic experience; you don’t feel like you’re playing it such as other cinematic games like Metal Gear or Shenmue.  Everything Journey has to offer is smooth and coherent.  Graphics, sound, camera, art direction, gameplay; there is not a moment where you doubt what you’re experiencing.

Cinematic tension well built.

The synopsis of Journey is that the cloaked entities must go on a journey to a mountain in the distance.  Along the way, utilizing online play, your cloaked being will meet others who are on the same quest.  The only way to communicate with them is through a “call button”.  Very little is described in the game itself.  A lot of gamers may not like this but in my opinion, it definitely works.  It gives a sense of mystery and alienation, something I find to be very vital to the charm of Journey.  It is not a game for the casual or “hardcore”, it is an experience.

Buddies!

What I love about Journey is how multiplayer is handled.  Every time you play, you’re meeting a new character.  They may be really helpful or absolutely clueless.  Sometimes they’ll appear, sometimes they will disappear (there are moments where you can lose your buddy).  It’s amazing how much can be understood with no dialogue and only one form of communication.  This game shows that a story doesn’t always need words; it proves that all a story requires are simple stimuli.  The lighting, the sounds, the use of colors and visuals.  It was very clear whoever directed this game studied film—which is why I believe this belongs on my blog.  During my first play through, I really felt that the boundaries between the two entertainment mediums were being blurred.  A critic of the arts may not like the sound of this but I do feel this piece opens up a whole new field for new stories to be told.  More game designers and companies need to follow Journey‘s path.

Contrast to show fast paced action.

If you have a PlayStation 3 and fifteen bucks to burn, buying Journey would be money well spent.  I have replayed this “experience” more than five times and have not been bored.  There are quite a handful of secrets to unlock and the ending will make you shed a tear.  This is an experience with purpose and meaning: the beauty of struggle, the cycle of life and, ultimately, why we want to live.  It may sound like this is a deep movie and, stepping back, it really is; an interactive one at that.

What would go great with this ?

Serve with…
Chicken Shawarma
Accommodating beverage…
Moroccarita

Rating:

Critic Value: 10/10

For once, a game that has literary voice and more than just a message or two… without using any words.  Once again, it’s an experience that requires you to recollect yourself after.

Quality Value: 10/10

Graphics, sounds, visuals, gameplay are all A grade.

Entertainment Value: 10/10

As I said up in the Critic Value section, it’s an experience that requires you to recollect yourself once finished.  It’s a game that cannot technically end.  It’s a piece about the marriage of purpose and life.  You must play it to believe it.

NOTE: Congratulations developers behind Journey and the members of thatgamecompany, you are the first to receive full 10 out of 10s on my blog!

Tangled — A shot in the arm that the “family movie” genre has been needing for quite some time.

I would not have seen this movie if it wasn’t for my girlfriend.  I’m glad she made me watch it because otherwise I would have passed on this completely.  Fantasy is a genre I dislike about ninety-nine percent of the time.  It has never appealed to me for a reason that even I am unclear of.  With that aside, I also think the marketing for this film shied a lot of critics (like me) away.  They made it seem too childish and didn’t make it seem as if they were trying to place it in the Disney Princess canon.  If they were to market it as part of that canon, I would have gone out of my way to see it.  Tangled definitely took me by surprise and it’s a shot in the arm the family movie genre has needed for quite some time.

Absorbing beauty.

If you’re planning to make a CGI movie, take note of Tangled.  Every, and I mean every, shot of this film is a work of art.  I have never seen something so damn pretty and computer generated at the same time before.  Frankly, I have been getting sick of animations like these but this is definitely the medium’s savior.  It’s not just the hair and the skin and the water and the clothes and the trees and the lights; it’s also the animation.  The animation in this is so fluid.  I have to say it’s practically life like.  For awhile, I thought maybe they used motion capture for majority of this film but looking at the “how they made it” feature in the extras, that doesn’t seem to be the case.  Instead, it was a lot of very hard and careful work.

Well done characters.

Even when you take the pretty graphics away, the story is A+ material.  For a fantasy movie, I felt the characters were believable and memorable, not just the heroine.  Flynn Rider.  The Stabbington Brothers.  Maximus.  Pascal.  Mother Gothel.  There weren’t too many or too little characters.  I thought that each even had just the right amount of screen time, not a bit wasted or needed.  They all played into the overarching theme of this movie: trust.  This is another thing that I applaud the writers of Tangled on.  Not many kid or family movies in the past few years really had an actual theme or message; most of them have been lacking in that department.  Tangled‘s writers were able to put it in the story and not make it either overbearing or just “kinda-sorta” there.

This scene would make anyone want to invest in a Blu-ray player and a big TV. Seriously

The only thing I think this movie falls short on is how some things resolve in the end.  It suffers from the “barely explainable” plot devices that most fantasy movies succumb to.  I will have to give Tangled some leeway on this though because it tries its hardest to avoid cliches and it is based on an age-old fairy tale where the belief in “magic” was commonplace.  All-in-all, Tangled is a great movie for kids and adults alike.  It is also, in my opinion, one of the best family films to come out in the past several years.

What would go great with this ?
Serve with…
Crispy Oven Fried Fish
http://www.howsweeteats.com/2011/04/a-good-fish-sandwich-with-chips/ (by the way, my girlfriend and I absolutely love this blog)
Accommodating beverage…
Black and tan.  It’s my comfort drink.

Rating:

Critic Value: 8/10

The theme may be nothing new but it was well done.  “Themes” are also something a lot of family and children movies have been lacking these past few years and Tangled gets props for bringing it back.

Quality Value: 10/10

Giving the artists one point less would be a crime.  My jaw dropped so hard from Tangled‘s beauty that it locked.

Entertainment Value: 9/10

It’s very rare that I give something from the fantasy genre more than a six or seven.  The beauty and the story worked so well together that my attention didn’t leave the screen once.