Selected samples of my games writing for publications including Kotaku, Official PlayStation Magazine, Rock Paper Shotgun, Edge and more. For more details, email me on alexjspencer@live.com.

POKÉMON GO: ONE YEAR ON
Kotaku

“For me, Pokémon Go always was best as a way of overwriting physical locations with virtual memories. Scrolling through my collection (which now tells you where each Pokemon was caught), every glamorous location – from Croydon to Stourbridge – comes with its own story.

The party that dispersed to chase an Electabuzz two streets over; a summer’s afternoon in Wetherspoons, throwing out Lures with each round of drinks; the holiday where I risked extortionate roaming data charges because I couldn’t wait to catch my first Squirtle.”

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PERSISTENCE & PERMADEATH: PROGRESSION IN SPELUNKY, INTO THE BREACH AND ROGUELIKES
Rock Paper Shotgun

“Permadeath isn’t quite as permadeadly as it used to be. There are an increasing number of roguelikes, roguelites and other games with forms of permadeath that kill a character but leave traces of progression behind. Your character might be gone, but some of the updates and unlocks they accessed live on. Exactly how this persistence is implemented, though, varies from game to game.

Take Into the Breach, a recent and brilliant example of the form which not only included persistence between playthroughs but managed to weave it into the game’s story. Losing means the end of an entire timeline, as the last remnants of humanity are claimed by giant bugs. But you can send one of your mech pilots back in time, with their experience and skills intact, to try and save the world all over again.”

 

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ATTACK ON TITAN 2 REVIEW
Official PlayStation Magazine

“Carrying out your giant-fighting mission feels great. The show’s iconic ODM (Omni-Directional Mobility) gear handles exactly the way you’d imagine. A combination of a grappling hook, jetpack, and Spider-Man’s fluid web-slinging, it’s basically all of the greatest traversal mechanics in games rolled into one. Pressing SQUARE fires out two anchors, which embed in nearby buildings and reel you in.

Steer downwards and you’ll skid along the ground at inhuman speeds, kicking up dust into the bargain. Pull up and let go, and you’ll be slingshotted through the air. There’s a genuine kinetic thrill to using the ODM that doesn’t really fade even after hours of play.”

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TIME EXTEND: VIVA PIÑATA
Edge

“Back in 2006, Rare found itself at a crossroads. The developer had spent the1990s working with Nintendo, creating some of the SNES, Game Boy and N64’s most beloved titles. In 2002, though, itwas acquired by Microsoft, becoming a first-party developer for its new game console. In the transition, some of Rare’s magic seemed to have been lost. None of the four games it developed in the intervening years were hits, critically or commercially, on anything like the scale of its Nintendo golden years.

As such, 2006’s Viva Piñata was positioned as a comeback for the studio. The game was aimed at a younger audience and was intended to be the beginning of a fully fledged franchise, complete with its own animated TV show. On these terms, the game was not the success it deserved to be – but it proved that the embers of that old Rare magic still burned bright.”

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STAR WARS: SECRETS OF THE EMPIRE BRINGS A GALAXY FAR, FAR CLOSER TO HOME
Kotaku

“The single biggest draw of Secrets of the Empire, of course, isn’t the promise of the VR technology. It can be best summed up in two simple words: Star Wars. Who doesn’t love lightsabers and furry aliens?

As a setting, it’s a perfect fit for the tech. Cramped industrial corridors are Star Wars’ stock-in-trade, which suits the limited real-world space you have to move around in. A mix of stormtroopers and droids eliminate the need for human faces, which in VR risk falling into the uncanny valley. And given you’re going undercover in the shining-white armour of the Empire’s foot soldiers, putting on the real-world bulky headset and suit just becomes part of the fantasy.”

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MAKING SENSE OF THE ENDLESS REFLECTIONS OF HER STORY
Kill Screen

“’My name is Hannah. H-A-N-N-A-H. It’s a palindrome. It reads the same backwards as forwards. It doesn’t work if you mirror it though, it’s not quite symmetrical.’

That’s how Her Story begins. At least, how it begins chronologically speaking. After saying yes to a coffee (black, no sugar), this is the second line spoken by Hannah in her interrogation. When you played, though, chances are this wasn’t the first, or even second, clip you watched. The game is constructed out of hundreds of clips like this, which can be viewed in any order depending on which search terms you pick.

It’s also the game’s first lie. Because this isn’t Hannah, after all, but her identical twin Eve. E-V-E, another palindrome. Between each of the seven interviews, the two women alternate in a neat symmetrical pattern: E-H-E-H-E-H-E.”

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Like what you see? Contact me via email on alexjspencer@live.com.