best before 26.03.2021

by Hartigan Malchop

Read on to find out what happens next.

Howdy folks, it sure has been too long! Even for your ole pal Harty Malchop, the slowest vidya game writer in the West, it has been a bona-fide, certified, time an’ a half, ain’t it? While we all been shut in at home an’ that there sickness has been spreadin’ around the world, I bless my lucky stars that I been fortunate enough to keep on the long stay inside without any life-threatin’ cares. Instead, my mind got to turnin’ over the very small but pressin’ problem about what to do with more time on my hands than even this layabout Malchop is accustomed to. Why, alongside bein’ fine game-players of all kinds, I reckon you fine folks probably have all sorts of hobbies an’ sports that keep your good selves goin’ through your days. Could be I oughter be doin’ more with my spare time myself. All through the indoor times, I was thinkin’ that I don’t get around to readin’ as much as I’d like, an’ I wonder if that’s a problem for you folks too. Mebbe I’m out of practice, but durned if I plum can’t work out how to make myself a lil’ slice of time to git some readin’ done. Now you folks know Harty likes his detective stories, not to mention a smatterin’ of spy books, an natcherly the occasional Western, but I just struggle to keep this specimen of a Malchop nose in a book.

Now, when I try to actually get down an’ read a book, ‘cos I ain’t a speedy guy when it comes to readin’, there’s always this startin’ effort, like in every book I got to push on up this steep hill until I get my puff up. It feels like I have to struggle through enough of the book to get some momentum, and to be truthful with you folks, most time that feels like one heck of a trial. When readin’ feel like trying to climb a big exhausting hill, it gets to bein’ like I can’t even catch my breath an’ enjoy the view. Oftentimes, folks, I admit I don’t get far enough up the readin’ hill to enjoy the landscape. I’ve tried listenin’ to a good long audiobook, what with so many fine folks singing the praises of this perticular method of gittin’ through a book, but truth be told, folks, once I hear someone readin’ a story to me, I just start to drift off to sleep quick as a weary little kid at the sunset of a busy day. It sure makes it hard to keep track of an audiobook when you keep nappin’ throughout, an’ you can’t remember where you was last awake an’ what happened to who since then.

Still, every now an’ then, I stumble into a story where I ain’t got to push an’ struggle with the words, the sort of tale that just pulls me right along. Being such a slow muddlin’ fellow, that’s what I need – that feelin’ you get when a yarn gits right around you – when you are so caught up in what’s happening that it pulls you along like gravity. You don’t want to stop that sort of story, ’cause the need to know what happens next has got hold of you. Them varieties of stories are what I need, tales that feel something like scootin’ downhill from the mountaintop with the wind at your back. You want to let that there magnetic pull lift you off yer feet and carry you along.

I’ve been thinking about what sort of books help carry me on through when I struggle, which stories help me along. Natcherly, what with there being even more time for trying video games lately, I’ve been having a browse through games that are all about story, an’ tryin’ to see if I can find that same sort of helpin’ force.

Mr. Malchop has not mentioned that the least believable thing about this scifi world is that the robots talk to each other on the train.

Now onesuch small game that got me pulled along that I played through not too long ago was a short thing called ‘Subsurface Circular’. The whole game is set on a subway train in the future, and all the characters are robots. You are a detective robot, tasked to solve the case of a fellow robot who has up an’ vanished. You go about your pre-programmed business, questioning the other robots that are hoppin’ on an’ off the train as they travel underneath the city, finding ways to git them to tell you what you need to know. An’, as you sit chattin’ to other robots on the train, you find out not just about that one perticular robot who has gone missing, but about the different lives of your fellow machine people. In a short game and a limited space, the story hints at what is happenin’ elsewhere, givin’ you all these bits an’ pieces of the world that exists unseen above you, drawin’ you along the tracks to a punchy end.

More like Nap Time.

But the game that really gave me that feelin’ of a story with ‘pull’ that drew me right along was ‘Broken Age’, from the fine folks at Double Fine. In Broken Age, you play through two different stories as two different kids – a girl livin’ in a fantasy land with monsters, and a boy livin’ a bored life onboard a spaceship. Now, although their surroundings are very different, these two young folks are both tryin’ to escape the restrictions of their worlds. It don’t hurt none that the whole game is as purty as a picture and has some real swell voices in the cast. You get to encounter all sorts of charmin’ people an’ places as the two kids go on about their adventurin’ -an’ this game features cake-themed sacrifices, ice-cream avalanches, adorable lil’ robots, an’ my personal favorite character-and-item combined, a talkin’ spoon.

Eat it up, young man. There are children starving in foreign spaceships who don’t get ice-cream at all.

Broken Age is, in many ways, an ole-fashioned kind of thing – a point-and-click adventure. You talk to people, look for objects, an’ try to figger out what to do with ’em. There ain’t no choppin’ or shootin’ or punchin’ or drivin’ or dashin’. All you gotta do is solve the puzzles and problems that pop up an’ git in the way of you workin’ on through those two stories. Best of all, in Broken Age, if you do get stuck on some especially puzzlin’ bit, you can always switch main characters an’ work through the other kid’s story for a while.

That’s the sort of innovative, blue-sky thinking that we value around here.

It sure is a shame this sort of game isn’t as popular as it was once way back when, because the best thing about playing one of these kinds of story games is that you pretty much never have to hurry. If, like a certain dawdlin’ Malchop here, you ain’t so good at being fast with a controller, the story game don’t mind none. It’ll wait until you are good an’ ready, an’ if you mess up or choose somethin’ foolish when tryin’ to solve a puzzle, the game ain’t going to kick you back to the start or nothin’. The story will wait all peaceful-like until you work it out for yourself. An’ heck, I sure did want to work it out for myself, because this game had that story pull for me.

Through these here long tough times, I tip my hat to those of you who have the gumption to push yourselves to learn how to paint watercolors, or speak French, or do embroidery, or really git stuck into the gigantic mountain of a book you always done meant to read. But at the same time, if you feel you ain’t got it in you just at the moment, why your pal Harty is here to tell you that’s fine too! Look for the moments an’ the games an’ the stories that are goin’ to pull you out an’ carry your tired soul along. You’ll know that feelin’ when you find it, ’cause it won’t put you down until you’re done.

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