Backlog: Lost Voice Edition

There are few things worse than a tickle in the back of the throat heralding a cold or ailment. One of them is having this feeling while working in a call center. This happened to me just a couple days ago, and now what would ordinarily be a fairly minor cold has left me almost entirely unable to speak. While this may be a blessed relief for many, for me it's a cause of some stress. The LAN party I was going to this weekend? Well, I'm still going, but any yells I produce will be a ragged wheeze. When I get back to work, my hoarse rasping will be almost useless on the phone lines. I sure hope there's some kind of clerical work to be done -- because otherwise I'm hosed.

Anyway, Nick's the only one chiming in this week for our Backlog, but he's written quite a chunk. I'd speak up myself, but it can all be pretty quickly summarized: Broken Age is gorgeous. How did I not play more Left 4 Dead 2?

So, with that boring bit out of the way, let's see what Nick has been up to this past week. -- Spencer Tordoff

Header image: Phone Booths by Kristin Nador

Heed Nick’s words, reader. Broken Age really is the real deal.

Heed Nick’s words, reader. Broken Age really is the real deal.

Nick

It's been a while! I've been busy making all sorts of significant life choices with a devil-may-care attitude; hope you're all doin' well, too.

I've been taking advantage of the post-holiday lull to catch up on some games that I accrued over the past year but never gave a fair shake to. Here are the ones I think you should pay attention to:

The Swapper came out on PC last year, but somehow I missed it entirely until it came up in some other publications' Game of the Year talks. How the hell a Metroidvania-style puzzle-platformer slipped past me is a mystery for the ages, but now that I've played a few hours of it I feel I can recommend it without reservation. This is a fiendishly brilliant puzzle game that forces you to think about space, movement and physics in ways you haven't before, which is something videogames are uniquely positioned to do better than just about anything else on the planet. No puzzle feels superfluous, and the thrill of exploration and unraveling the game's minimalist (which is not to say superfluous) story is very compelling. I'm not big on regrets, but there's a good chance I would've argued for this game to make our top-ten list last year.

One other thing: it might sound strange to praise the atmosphere as one of the strongest points in a two-dimensional platformer, but The Swapper has a feeling of depth and – a better word escapes me here – volume that you just can't find in many other games.

I also dug into the first couple hours of Double Fine's long-awaited Broken Age, previously known as the Double Fine Adventure Kickstarter campaign. Maybe it's impossible for me to objectively evaluate a deliberate throwback to a genre I hold near and dear, but I think the beautiful and distinct art style, inspired voice acting (sup Elijah) and shrewd puzzles prove that Broken Age is the real deal. I'm taking my time with it – games like this are rare and shouldn't be rushed, in my experience.

What else? I checked out The Wonderful 101, which is a game that I still have no idea how to interpret. It's probably too janky to reproduce here, but I'll keep thinking it over for a future article. I also spent an hour with Bit.trip Presents: Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien, which feels like the sort of game I always hoped the team at Gaijin was capable of making but hadn't seen in the original WiiWare Bit.trip games.

I've also been chipping away at NES Remix, Nintendo's under-the-radar mashup of challenges featuring classic NES games. Fifteen bucks is pretty steep for any game like this one, especially a game that's composed entirely of challenges lifted right out of games that are old enough to have followed R.E.M. on tour, but NES Remix is a surprisingly polished and devilishly engrossing experience. I'm at about 70% completion at this point, and I'd be lying if I wasn't dead-set on earning all three stars on every challenge before I put this one to rest. At its best, it's a supremely gratifying test of old-school reflexes – a rarity these days – and if you grew up on the Nintendo Entertainment System, chances are you're gonna find a lot to love in this game.

Finally, I played more Dark Souls because I am a masochist.