Video Games With Unique and Innovative Gameplay Mechanics

With the beautiful games being released this past few weeks, we can’t help but wonder if they will also capture us with their gameplay or detach us from the immersion that the game’s graphics or story gives us. Most of these upcoming games are overly hyped and we don’t want another, for a lack of better word, disappointment. No man wants to see a sky of unfulfilled promises – I know, not the best wordplay out there. Heads up! Minimal spoilers ahead. I did my best to keep all the spoilers to the least while keeping the integrity of the explanation about the video games with innovative – or unique – gameplay. Here are video games that got us hooked with their gameplay. These games are not rated on which is the best; this is an unsorted list. *wink* Enjoy!

Superhot

Unique Gameplay. Simplicity truly is beauty
Simplicity truly is beauty

Minimalist graphics? Check. Challenging levels? Check. Innovative and easy-to-learn gameplay? You guessed it – Check. Meet Piotr Iwanicki, the game designer of one of the best examples of indie-done-right video games. And, no, I will not try to pronounce his name. Superhot started out as an entry in a 7-Day First Person Shooter game jam back in August 2013. It was then greeted with a lot of praise from gamers and critics alike. Finally, released into a full-blown game back in 2016, thanks to crowd-funding and a lot of great publicity.

The gameplay can be explained in one sentence and the developers did just that stating that, “SUPERHOT is the first person shooter where time moves only when you move.” – You can’t explain it any simpler than that. Yes, time stops when you do; you can see the bullets mid-air, you can stop playing and go do something else, and you can smack people in the head then take their weapons, which you can also see fly up in the air as the enemy falls to the ground. This unique gameplay truly makes you feel like Rambo or Jack Bauer, a hero to save the day. Well, not in 24 hours or less, because you will be playing this game for dayz just to get through the challenges.

Papers, Please

It's fun, you have my word.
It’s fun, you have my word.

Have you experienced travelling to another country? Did you ever wonder how the immigration officers do their jobs? If the thought crossed your mind, I suggest grabbing a copy of Papers, Please, a game made by Lucas Pope. He was a developer from Naughty Dog, the studio behind the award-winning video game series, Uncharted. He made this game with a thought in his mind that video games are a form of art.

In Papers, Please, you get to play as an immigration officer and you’ll get to experience how to stand on the other side of the window in the immigration office. The graphics for the game is simple, but the gameplay is unique. It starts simple, some basic rules will be laid out for you to follow. And these rules will be the basis  whether an applicant can pass through or not. Then as each day in the game progresses, new rules or requirements will be presented: additional paperworks will need to be verified, new tools will be introduced in order to asses the immigrant, and other additional actions which is very similar to how immigration really works. After playing this, you might think twice before unleashing your rage in the immigration office.

Monument Valley

The title doesn't spell "Challenging", right? Wrong.
The title doesn’t spell “Challenging”, right? Wrong.

Puzzles, puzzles, puzzles. We all thought that video game puzzles will always be the same: you will encounter an obstacle, then you’ll be asked to find certain objects or pieces then place them in or on a specific place, you’ll be asked to draw a line going from a point around the obstacle and to a certain end point, et cetera. Then Monument Valley came into the picture and it came in with a bang. With multiple awards, citations, commendations, and praises, this video game sets a mark for the next generation of more challenging and innovative puzzle games.

I’m pretty sure you’ve seen or at least heard of impossible objects. Those objects that we perceive as physically impossible or, at least, bothering. Monument Valley used it as the main gameplay mechanic of the game. The players are asked to control a silent protagonist, a princess named Ida through  various levels of optical illusions. You might be thinking that it’s simple, you just need to get through the whole “illusion” of the stage. Nope. There will also be tiny objectives like, activators, bridges, pathwalks, etc. that you need to activate and manipulate in order to get through the stage. If you’re the type of gamer who likes some excruciating mental challenge, you might want to give this one a shot. Thank me later.

The Elegy for a Dead World

Oh, writing. The act of materializing the wonders of the human mind – the adventures, wishes, dreams, visions, and other abstract or philosophical constructs of the human mind. This is what Dejobaan Games, the developers of the Elegy for a Dead World, used as their main gameplay mechanic.

You are a traveler whose ship was broken and who is tasked to record the history of the planets around you. The gameplay is pretty simple, you get to choose from three planets where you want to write about first. Then, you can start with a certain premise of the world or you can go wild with your imagination with the free writing option. This video game is now being used as a tool for teaching English as a second language or ESL in various schools and universities around the world. This shows that video games can be more than just a ‘game’.

Valkyria Chronicles

You will cry. Trust me.
The 7th platoon of the Gallian Militia

This video game is one of the games I’ve played (and anime I’ve watched) that delivers great story with astonishing twists, relatable characters, and an immersive gameplay. Valkyria Chronicles is brought to you by the developers of Sonic. Yes, that’s right – Sega.

Like most RPG/JRPG, character development is embedded in the core gameplay of Valkyria Chronicles. But, what makes this game unique is its turn-based battle system called BLiTZ or Battle of Live Tactical Zones. I know, sounds awesome, right? Well, that’s because it is. This battle system is composed of three parts or modes. The Command Mode, the Action Mode, and the Target Mode.

The first one puts you in an overhead map of the battlefield. This is the time when you can learn of the enemies’ whereabouts and plan where to position your units and where to strike. Then, you can select a unit to control, which brings the player to Action Mode. While in the Action Mode, you can control your character like a normal third-person shooter. Movement costs Action Points which varies for each of your units on the field. Lastly, when you’re finished positioning your units, you can enter the Target Mode. In this mode, the player has control of the unit’s aim, but you can’t move. This allows for headshots and other awesome kills.

During the player’s turn, each action – whether the control of multiple units or the same unit consecutively – depletes his/her Command Points. There are also different classes of characters to experiment with. The environment also affects the flow of the combat. Snipers can take the higher grounds for a vantage point, tanks can knock down walls, and many more.

This game is truly worth the try. But, I suggest watching the anime first.

Other Video Games with Unique Gameplay

  • Patapon – because of using different notes and rhythms for attack, defend, run, etc.
  • Her Story – because of using video footages of a real person
  • Portal – Handheld Portal Device
  • Eternal Darkness – due to the Sanity meter
  • Shadow of Mordor – Nemesis System, enemies remember you and yes – creepy.
  • Katamari – cute anarchy

These are just some of the games that I’ve played that I think has an innovative gameplay. How about you? Have you played a video game with a very unique gameplay that got you immersed for hours? Tell us in the comments down below. We like to hear more games that exhibits innovation.

Show, Don’t Tell: Horizon: Zero Dawn vs. Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Horizon Zero Dawn Logo

Zero Dawn vs. Zelda

I’m having a lot of fun with Horizon: Zero Dawn, and I am also a big fan of game narrative, but sometimes there are just too many words. Today I’m going to compare the design styles of the new Zelda: Breath of the Wild and the aforementioned Horizon. Specifically, how they use (or don’t use) voiced narration to lead the player.

In the first few minutes of Horizon: Zero Dawn’s gameplay, the protagonist, Aloy, points out what’s going on in the environment. Verbally. Even though there’s no one around to hear her. You could argue that you’re hearing her “thoughts,” or that she’s talking to herself because she’s scared, but neither case is a good excuse.

The player simply doesn’t need to hear it

Horizon Zero Dawn game
Image Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/32545636372/

Aloy will describe her surroundings, talk about what she should be doing next, talk about what she just did, and ultimately treats the player like a blind person with short-term memory loss. It’s as though the writer wrote a book and adapted it verbatim for the game, cutting out the he-saids and she-saids and leaving everything else.

Again, I love game narrative. I think games are a powerful storytelling medium. But just because a game can have more words written or lines spoken, certainly doesn’t mean it should. Ideally, the player should be able to play the game with the volume and subtitles off, using only art and design cues to figure out what to do next.

Look at Breath of the Wild. While it’s a longstanding tradition for Link to not speak, many Zelda games since Ocarina of Time gave the player a talking companion who points out everything you need to know. Navi, Midna, the… blue person from Skyward Sword whose name I forget. They all helped lead the player without needing Link to speak a word.

But in Breath of the Wild, like the original Zelda games of yore, has no quest-long companion jabbering in Link’s pointy ear. The game simply trusts the player to figure things out on their own.

This is the ideal design

Image retrieved from Nintendo.com

The ironic part is that Zelda is a game for kids and adults alike on a Nintendo platform that facilitates new gamers. Horizon: Zero Dawn is rated T for teen, and requires the player to use a PS4 controller and its dual-analog configuration that new gamers struggle with.

In essence, Horizon: Zero Dawn holds the player’s hand despite there being very little chance that the player is someone new at games, while Breath of the Wild trusts the player to figure things out without someone yapping at them the whole time.

It’s easy to look at games like Horizon: Zero Dawn as the way of the future and games like Zelda to be relics of the past. But with these two game releases, both at nearly the same time, the “relic” has shown itself to be much more comfortable as a game. And future designers—especially narrative designers—should take note.

I’m Officially Hyped For Mass Effect Andromeda

Andromeda

The last several times we’ve seen Mass Effect Andromeda, it has been nothing but disappointment thanks to underwhelming videos that, more than anything, teased us.

While teasers have their place, we have all waited far too long to see what this upcoming game has to offer, and while I still cannot confidently say that the gameplay is great, at least we now have our very first look at the story.

Here it is in full; beware of potential spoilers.

I feel that this trailer spends a bit too much time showing off potential late-game spoilerific content, but wow does that ever hit hard. This is what I’ve been… mostly wanting from BioWare for over a year now. We’ve had such obnoxious or disappointing teasers that I’ve ranted about already, but this definitely begins to scratch the itch I think we all collectively feel.

Part of me still feels a bit bitter that N7 day didn’t feature a gameplay trailer, the very fact that it is actually going to be shown off in a few weeks is a comforting thought, and this trailer in all its glory, managed to make me a thousand times more excited for the game than I was before.

Uncharted 4 Story Trailer Drops Jaws

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End has been nothing but a consistent tease for the last year. We’ve been given small gameplay demonstrations, and there was that closed beta a while back, but until now, we haven’t really had a chance to see the narrative of the game.

Thankfully, for those of us still chewing our nails waiting for any new details before it releases on April 26, Naughty Dog has dropped a meaty story trailer for our visual consumption.

And here she is.

I am repeatedly astounded by how amazing Uncharted 4 looks. The visual fidelity on display here is almost unrivaled, and this trailer is possibly the best demonstration of how good Naughty Dog is at creating beautiful worlds to date.

Couple that with all these subtle story threads and intriguing new characters, and I am more anxious than ever to devour this game the moment I can. Though, I think the original trilogy needs a dusting off first.

Life Is Strange: Is Chloe Destined To Die?

Chloe

It seems like the universe really wants Chloe Price to die. At least, that’s what it’s starting to look like by the end of the second episode of Life Is Strange. Are the game‘s writers trying to give us a hint? Let’s take a look at what’s happened so far:

  • Chloe was shot in the school bathroom.
  • Chloe will accidentally shoot herself if you tell her to aim for the car bumper in the junkyard.
  • Chloe is just about squished by a train.

That’s three near-death incidents in two days, and two of them were identical – she gets shot in the exact same place (her stomach) two days in a row. Now we can write off the first incident in the bathroom as the story’s inciting scene, but what about the other two? For those who didn’t explore this option, when Chloe and Max are shooting bottles in the junkyard, Chloe asks Max to tell her where to shoot a rusty old car to make it destroy the remaining 3 bottles. If you tell her to shoot the car’s bumper, the bullet will bounce back into Chloe’s stomach.

Wait, what? The bullet bounces off a car bumper and hits Chloe right in the stomach? What are the odds? Okay, so maybe it wasn’t the smartest idea to be playing with a gun while drinking, but still! Of all the directions that bullet could have flown off in, it went straight for Chloe’s stomach. It’s extremely unlikely, and even more so if you take into account that Max saw Chloe shot in the exact same spot the day before by Nathan.

But let’s call the two bullets Chloe’s taken to the stomach a coincidence. There’s still the train drama to deal with. After chilling on the train tracks for a while, Chloe (somehow) gets her foot stuck and can’t get up. And, of course, as soon as you realise this, the train is on its way. The path Max has to take to free Chloe is convoluted and not immediately obvious, so it’s likely you had to rewind at least a couple of times before you got her free – which means you got to watch your friend on the verge of being smooshed several times before you set her free. And let’s not forget how weird it is that she got stuck in the first place. Unless she decided to shove her foot in between the tracks, it’s not exactly clear how she managed it.

In episode 2 alone, both incidents were accidental and, presumably, could just as easily have happened to Max. But it was Chloe who copped it both times. It could be that Life Is Strange adopts the theory in physics that time is immutable. Perhaps Chloe was “destined” to be shot, and all of these near-death incidents are actually just the universe trying to correct itself after Max stuffed it up. It could be that, no matter how many times Max rewinds, she ultimately won’t be able to save Chloe. So are the writers trying to tell us that Chloe’s days are numbered? Maybe they’re tying to soften the heartbreak we’re going to suffer when we watch one of our favourite characters die by making us practice watching it happen over and over again, so we’ll be desensitised to it. It will be interesting to see if Chloe’s habit of dancing with death continues in episode 3, but for now, I’ve got a bad feeling about what’s to come for her.

“Cinematic Story Telling” Pros and Cons

Cinematic

Gaming has come a long way since the 1980’s, a time when every game consisted of aliens invading earth without any real rhyme or reason. Nowadays when aliens invade earth, they are not just aliens, they are trans-dimensional semi-deity machines who not only invade earth, but an entire galaxy with the aim to wipe 90% of all life to prevent a continuous cycle of self-destructive behavior. That plot is probably more engaging, and better scripted than the vast majority of theatrical releases nowadays, so gaming has evolved and partially assimilated cinema full on Borg style. This trend of cinematic experiences that we can interact with has taken the industry by storm, and we bask in its magnificence, but is it really all it’s cracked up to be?

Like with any good argument, there are two sides to this story. When you look at cinematic games, or even games with great stories and engaging narratives we are spoiled for choice. Games like the Mass Effect trilogy, Metal Gear Solid, Bioshock and Final Fantasy are all series that are renowned for cinematic story telling, and interesting storylines, and we are only scratching the surface. A strong plot gives you a tangible connection to the world you are temporarily inhabiting. You build, and feel the bonds to the characters you encounter, you experience the weight of your decisions, sometimes literally, and for those brief moments of gameplay you become one with the world, and you are the main character.  Developers have become so adept at creating these cinematic experiences that Metal Gear Solid 4: Sons of the Patriots actually has so many cutscenes, that their combined length dwarfs that of all other conventional media. If you type in your favorite game in youtube, you can literally watch hours of cutscenes mashed together into a somewhat coherent movie.

Mass Effect 3

But this level of detail, this fascination with providing a “movie-like experience” is equally as detrimental. For every Silent Hill, you have a handful of games that flat out fail to evoke the connections they are desperately trying to construct. The Order 1886 is a prime example of cinematic gaming gone horribly, horribly wrong. It sets us up with a familiar, yet different scenario: What if characters from Arthurian legend lived for hundreds of years and fought werewolves? On the basis that that is a pretty awesome idea, you would be forgiven if you expected the game to live up to that initial intrigue. The plot is hamfistedly forced upon you, literally basking in its own magnificence. It repeatedly hints at a grander, hidden plot that you just have to find out when in reality the characters, and the story is, at best, tedious and at worst, boring. Then to top it all off you have generic sequel bait thrown in.

This would not have been so bad if the game had actually been fun to play. But, like so many others, The Order is just your run of the mill generic shooter with all the gimmicks and tricks you expect from these games. They even have instant fail state stealth sections, with a false sense of choice thrown in to fool you into thinking you decide what path you take, when ultimately there is only one that leads to victory. The fact the game is flat out boring to play emphasizes the taxing narrative and vice versa. It is blatantly obvious they wanted to design a cinematic experience then slap a minigame as filler between cutscenes, and frankly such design is backwards.

The_Order_644_Frame_2864_1422884099

Of course The Order is not the first game to mess up in such a spectacular way. Assassins Creed has a long history of being only slightly above average to everyone but the most die-hard of paint watchers. Whilst the plot of Assassins Creed is serviceable in some places, and does have some interesting characters, the whole concept of the animus slows down an already sluggish game. The plot literally holds back the core experience, which could have been interesting had Desmond died in a fire. This combined with repetitive game play, relatively empty open worlds and hours of padding through tedious side missions and you are left with a pretty…ish…game that never quite reaches the heights a lot of people want it too. As a final cherry on the cake however, “Cinematic” was used as an excuse to neuter the most recent addition to the series. Cutting your games frame rate to 30FPS and claiming it is more cinematic is not only ludicrously false on every conceivable level, but it also hampers the games overall performance. There are reasons that games like Super Smash Brothers run at a lightning fast locked 60FPS, and why PC gamers constantly whine about locked 30FPS: It makes a difference.

Games with little to no plots however are not exactly a bad thing. I have always stood by Mario as having one of the greatest stories of all time. Not for its hidden meanings or character development, but for its ability to tell you everything you need to know in about 10 seconds and opening the pearly white gameplay gates and actually letting you experience the game. Mario doesn’t need the same level of detail as Mass Effect, if it did, it would hinder what we are actually here for, and that is to play the game. Save the princess. Bim, bam, bosh, done. Simple, elegant and perfect. Super Meat Boy, The Legend of Zelda and many many others use this same formula. They set the scene and then get out of the way. And it works.

dgn_new_super_mario_bross_wii_720p_screen_02

And this is where we bump into that festering, bloated hunk of road kill known as Sonic. We all know Sonic has been in videogame hell for pretty much all of his 3D life, and whilst the actual concept of Sonic as a game is ludicrous in 3D and needs to be overhauled or given to Nintendo/someone who knows what we are doing, we can still link some of his failure to his story. Once upon a time, Sonic was a hedgehog who saved woodland critters from a fatguy. Typical “Mario Formula”. And like so many games before, and after it, it worked. Nowadays Sonic has an ever increasing cast of side kicks, an equally expanding list of villains, a strangely diverse set of anthropomorphic relationships, multiple time lines and of course, several world destroying Deities all waiting to be released. Heck, he somehow turned into a werehog (which makes no sense when you  consider that Were means Man…) but he also has a strange Arthurian side story…which somehow links nicely with The Order.

In the end, a strong narrative is a wonderful thing, but ultimately we are a part of a unique medium. We alone have the power to interact with what we see on our TV screens and watching a plot unfold will never be as enthralling as playing through it, and many developers understand this and create masterpieces. On the flip side buying The Order is like buying a £60 movie that you can occasionally play a dull minigame on during the ad-break. Whilst the argument is far from being simple, and there is no sure-fire rule that guides developers, it is clear to see that “Cinematic” experiences are not all they are cracked up to be.

Deep Down Gets Futuristic Gameplay Trailer For TGS 2014

Deep Down

One of Capcom’s most intriguing games, Deep Down, has received a new trailer courtesy of TGS 2014. The trailer displays a different picture than previously given, with an emphasis on the future aspects of the story and setting.

Up until now we’ve seen mainly dungeon crawling, so this change of pace is surprising.

Here is the full trailer for you to dissect.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6eKPwv_LY4

I’m not entirely sold on it, and this trailer hasn’t swayed me much. Seeing more info on a potentially unique and satisfying experience is never a bad thing however, so I will remain cautiously optimistic about the future of Deep Down. If we’re lucky, it will avoid tropes that other free-to-play experiences rely on.