New video games are bewitched by mazes, caves, devils, and more
This week, we have four games to fall in love with: an insanity-inducing puzzler, an old-school adventure, an excessive hack-and-slash effort starring the product of a demon and an angel, and a more subtle role-playing game about loss.
Antichamber (Alexander Bruce; Windows; not rated)
To play Antichamber, you need to forget that Newton and Einstein ever existed. To succeed in this first-person puzzle game from Australian indie designer Alexander Bruce, you’ll have to learn an entirely new set of physics rules. And the only way to learn them is to play and experiment and restart levels again and again. The controls are dead simple: you move and you jump. The sparse environment is mostly white with black edges; colour accents help you navigate and provide clues to some of the rules. As you progress through the maze toward the exit, you’ll collect pictographs and their associated hints, which try to be helpful. Antichamber is a mad genius of a game in which up can become down, left can become right, and when you turn around, what you see isn’t where you came from.
The Cave (Sega; Mac, PS3, Wii U, Windows, Xbox 360; rated teen)
Like the adventure games of old, The Cave provides no tutorial, instead tossing players into the heart of things and requiring them to explore possibilities. The game is set in a cave, natch. Players choose three characters from a cast of seven—adventurer, hillbilly, knight, monk, scientist, time traveller, twins—with which to wander the labyrinth. You switch from one character to another (when playing with up to two friends you each control a character) and each of the characters has a particular ability. The adventurer has a grappling hook, for example, and the knight can create an aura of invincibility. The explorers are able to carry a single object at a time that’s used to manipulate the environment, all in the service of solving the puzzles that await. The cave is also a character, and it provides witty and referential narration. But while the game is clever, players may find that they spend too much time wandering around The Cave and not enough time engaged with it.
DMC: Devil May Cry(Capcom; PS3, Windows, Xbox 360; rated mature)
This reboot, from the able developers at Ninja Theory (Heavenly Sword, Enslaved), is appropriately over-the-top. The franchise, which is loosely about a war between angels and demons that takes place among mortals, has always been presented in the most extreme fashion. The gothic sensibility has been updated here, as has the plot. Dante, the son of a demon father and an angel mother, hacks and shoots his way through enemies in the nightmare dimension of Limbo using a sword named Rebellion and two pistols he calls Ebony and Ivory. The combat is furious yet simple enough for casual players, with layers of chaining complexity for those wanting a more difficult task. There are constant nods to the original games, released between 2001 and 2008, most of them downright sarcastic. That tone infects the script, too. This new Dante may have black hair, instead of being a bleach blond, but he’s still the same arrogant and sardonic smart aleck he always was. This is a new DMC for, ostensibly, a new audience. They’re bound to like it, even if older fans complain.
Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (Namco Bandai; PS3; rated everyone 10+)
This adventure role-playing game boasts animation from Studio Ghibli, the creative studio of Hayao Miyazaki and the source of movies such as My Neighbor Totoro and Princess Mononoke. In it, a young boy named Oliver hopes to bring his mother back from death by travelling to a parallel dimension and saving her counterpart in that world. He’ll save the other land while trying to save his mother, by roaming around the open world, helping others by casting spells, and battling enemies. Oliver can summon familiars to send into battle against enemies in a turn-based combat system based on the one used in the Pokémon games. Ni no Kuni isn’t in a rush, so players used to fast-paced games will end up chewing their nails waiting for the chance to do something. But with a little patience, the charms of this elegant game are a ready delight.