This week in video games, October 2, 2017: Hellblade is masterful and unnerving

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      This week, you can win an Xbox One X or you can win the Madden NFL 18 challenge. And you might need to win a Nintendo Super NES Classic, because you'll have difficulty finding them in stores. Also: the new trailer for Red Dead Redemption II has us asking: "When will it be spring 2018?" But first, Hellblade is a masterwork that tackles a tricky subject and makes it work. 

      Hellblade uses masterful game design to document descent into madness

      Hellblade: Senmua's Sacrifice is an action adventure for Windows and PS4 that features a young female warrior who enters Helheim in a quest to resurrect a loved one. This descent into hell is the figurative made real, as you learn early on that Senmua has suffered a psychotic break.

      At times, it's difficult to play Hellblade because it makes you feel uncomfortable. The anguish Senmua suffers is palpable and unnervingly realistic.

      The game comes from Ninja Theory, which most recently brought us DMC: Devil May Cry and Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, which were both favourites of mine. Hellblade continues the developer's willingness to take on difficult topics and find ways to play in the fringes of nuance.

      Ninja Theory has used the ability of a video game to simulate other experiences in order to make Hellblade effective. There is a neverending cacophony of voices—best experienced with headphones or a good surround-sound system—a constant barrage of conflicting perspectives, one voice telling you to go back, another to forge ahead.

      Your perceptions are always being toyed with, the visuals sometimes becoming blurry and unfocused, and at times the descent into darkness becomes literal, as it must be for some sufferers of mental illness, and the terrible things that dwell there attack without warning, without mercy.

      In addition to the game mechanics designed to simulate the experience of a psychotic, Hellblade has a unique take on permanent death. Senmua's hand, touched by the "darkness", is infected with rot. Every time she dies, the rot spreads up her arm. If it reaches her head, she succumbs and you lose your progress.

      Dark and disturbing, Hellblade: Senmua's Sacrifice is an amazing and admirable examination of the mind and perception.

      Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice | Official Trailer 


      Increase your Gamerscore for a chance to win an Xbox One X

      Xbox Canada is giving away five Xbox One X consoles, and all you need to do to win one is play games.

      Five gamers in Canada who increase their Gamerscore the most until October 22 will get the new high-powered console from Microsoft. Everyone who registers will also get a chance to win one of five controllers.

      Register for the challenge and get playing.

      Nintendo has another sold-out product with Super NES Classic

      The Super Nintendo Entertainment System Classic Edition mini console, styled to look like the SNES from 1991, comes with 21 games built-in, including classics such as Castlevania II, the original Super Mario Kart, Super Mario World, Super Metroid, and Zelda: A Link to the Past.

      It also has Starfox and a new game, Starfox 2, which was developed for the original console and planned for release in 1995. The sequel was cancelled but is finally going to be playable by fans.

      The $100 console, which has been scaled down to fit in the palm of your hand, plugs into your television with an HDMI cable. It includes two controllers.

      The SNES Classic is a fun and welcome return to the era of 16-bit games, but the problem will be finding one, as it seems that Nintendo has limited quantities. Canadian presales were sold out in short order when they were announced in August.

      Last week, when it was released, EB Games announced on Twitter that it has units for sale at its online store. Those were sold out within minutes. Your best bet is to try and find one in a local store.

      New Red Dead Redemption II trailer confirms prequel narrative

      Arthur Morgan is the protagonist of the next game from Rockstar Games. He's an outlaw with the Van der Linde gang (which featured in the story of Red Dead Redemption) and he's not a nice man. In the new trailer promoting the game, he wields dual pistols, he uses a bow and arrow, and he rides a horse.

      What more do you want from a game set in the frontier territories of the American West?

      Register now for the Madden NFL 18 Canadian Challenge

      Fancy yourself a pretty good video-game football player? You can test your skills against the best in Canada by taking part in the Madden NFL 18 Challenge, produced by WorldGaming.

      Sponsored by Xbox, there are $20,000 in prizes up for grabs.

      It's free to enter, but players must be 16 years old and residents of Canada.

      Qualifying games are all played online, with the top 16 players advancing to the online playoffs. Eight finalists get an all-expense-paid trip to Toronto for the championship on November 5.

      Games released or releasing

      • FIFA 18, playable on almost every console imaginable, is now available. Developed at EA Vancouver, the game is a thrilling soccer sim that also has a story mode in which you can play as Alex Hunter while he becomes an international football star.
      • Middle-earth: Shadow of War mobile, developed in Vancouver at IUGO, is set in the same world as the forthcoming action game from Warner Bros. Interactive. It's available for Android and iOS.
      • Pokken Tournament Deluxe, the fighting game set in the world of Pokemon, for Nintendo Switch.
      • Cuphead, the retro-styled platformer from Canadian indie developers StudioMDHR, for Windows and Xbox One.
      • Forza Motorsport 7 for Windows and Xbox One.