Backlog: Axis of Sméagol edition

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor has also been called, at least around our digital office, "Orc Murder Simulator 2014." In it you play Talion, an Aragorn-like ranger who's, well, the Middle-earth equivalent of a terrorist.

But he only terrorizes orcs and Uruks, so it's cool.

Still, we couldn't help but wonder if Sauron was making oblivious, Bush-era speeches at the Black Gates, declaring "Mission Accomplished" in the war on good while Talion's sneaking around and blowing up statues of the dark lord. Hence the post header.

Nick rides solo in this week's post, and he shares his experiences with Long Live the Queen -- a princess life simulator. -- Aaron Thayer

Nick

SHOT THROUGH THE HEART / AND YOU’RE TO BLAME

SHOT THROUGH THE HEART / AND YOU’RE TO BLAME

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I wish I had more to talk about this week, but it’s been an unusually busy one on my end. As I sit here writing this, finally back at my PC, I’ve got a brand-new copy of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor installed and ready to go. But I care about you guys, so instead, here I am. Writing about the other stuff I played, because that’s what I do.

Unsurprisingly, I played a few more hours of Fire Emblem Awakening and I’ve now arrived at what’s undeniably the most important part of the story: the one where I’ve finally had a chance to meet and recruit all of the characters that’ll be in the new Super Smash Bros. out this fall. The game remains fascinating, even after 20+ hours of tactical combat, relationship-building and dallying in side quests. If you’ve got a 3DS and a thirst for strategy, I can recommend this one without reservation. It’ll hold you over until we finally see a new Advance Wars, at least.

But there’s another game I played I’d rather tell you about. It’s an unassuming, weird little text-based adventure game that’s built on top of a surprisingly complex stat-management system--and weirdest of all, it’s dressed up to the nines in a saccharine anime aesthetic.

It’s called Long Live the Queen, and yes, I lost five hours of my life to a princess life simulator.

What makes it so appealing? I’ve been struggling to put my finger on it while I write up a more-formal review. But for me, it comes down to how all the little details intertwine to create something new and weird and different. The comedic contrast between its bubblegum visuals its tendency to descend out of nowhere into dark, terrible violence is a source of constant joy for me, even when it’s my own protagonist who’s unexpectedly found herself pelted with arrows or contorted in pain from a poisonous coup. It encourages replayability without feeling cheap or tedious, and while its systems are opaque, they inspire curiosity more than frustration.

I’ve recommended some weird and esoteric stuff, like the visual novels in the Zero Escape series, but Long Live the Queen is in a whole other category altogether. I’m not sure what else to say. I love this strange little game, flawed as it may be. Maybe you will too.