The 5 Side-Scroller Puzzle Games You Must Play at Least Once

Categories: Gaming

Puzzle games are in a renaissance thanks to the mobile market right now, but while things like Candy Crush and its various knockoffs remain insanely popular, there have been some amazing entries into the side-scroller puzzle genre. Not just inventive, head-scratching play but in some cases unforgettable story lines and daring, avant garde characters. If you've never gotten into one of these types of games before, here is a guide for you to get started.

Thomas Was Alone
There probably has never been a game that broke more molds than Thomas Was Alone. Its characters are represented by nothing more than differently sized and colored rectangles, and yet the narration by Danny Wallace infuses them with more nuance and depth than any Grand Theft Auto protagonist. The graphics are as simple as Pong, but still sharp enough and beautiful enough to keep holding their own into the eighth-generation systems. Are you a girl looking for the perfect equal representation of women in gaming? It has literally never been done better than with the blue box Claire and the purple box Sarah (Laura is pink and a love interest to Chris, but still definitely her own woman).

As a puzzler, Thomas Was Alone is not overly difficult. You'll probably be able to get through it without ever looking up a walk-through even if it takes more than a few tries to get to the exits. The themes of cooperation and personal relationships play out heavily in the actual gameplay, making them powerful storytelling tools. My favorite is one where Thomas and James must slowly and carefully edge themselves across a vast abyss with spikes waiting to catch them if they miss. Not only is it a neat thing to physically do, it actively feels as if it cements the two rectangles as a team. Add in the fact that the plot is basically The Matrix Trilogy if Stephen Fry had written it (and it didn't suck), and it's one of the most engaging games ever.

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Finally Some Movement on Eagerly Awaited Portal Fan Film

Categories: Gaming

Alex Zemke's original image post
In 2012 images appeared online from Alex Zemke that showed what looked like it would be the be-all, end-all of Portal fan films. Coming across as something between Pixar and Star Wars Rebels, Companionship was pretty much as perfect as anyone could hope for regarding an expanded adventure of Chell and fans clamored for more.

But there wasn't anything more. Zemke moved on to other projects such as Puppeteer and The Last of Us: Left Behind for Sony Playastion. Companionship seemed dead in the water until just now.

Last week Zemke posted online a very rough, but still remarkable trailer for the project that finally showed Chelle in motion as she was launched to and fro among the turrets of Aperture Science. You can check it out below.

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10 Things I'm Going to Have to Tell My Gamer Daughter

Categories: Gaming

My Christmas present from my daughter.
At five-years-old my daughter has three times the gaming cred I did when I was her age. She plays the original Super Mario Bros. on my Wii (she prefers the original because while it's harder it's also less complex), various adventure titles with my help ranging from Sly Cooper on PS2 to Knackon PS4, occasional rounds with my wife's 3DS (2K makes excellent educational games based on Nick Jr. properties), flash games online and she has her own dedicated portable system, the LeapPad 2. Though LeapPad games are also largely educational they still employ modern gaming mechanics like stealth levels, puzzlers, and even old-school button-mashing.

My point is that from the age of three she's been a gamer. Gaming has been the norm in her life as much as movies and books have been, and I don't really see that ever changing. Gaming has gone mainstream, and one day sooner than I'd like she's going to start sharing her love of the hobby with people in real life and, dear God, online. Having watched the progress of things like #GamerGate and the years-long harassment of Anita Sarkeesian and other women I realize that I'm going to have to prepare her for that in ways I wouldn't have to do with a son. I have to tell her...

10. There are some great heroines in games for you to engage with, though most of them like Lara Croft I won't be letting you meet until you're way older. Celebrate those girls and women, but it's going to be a long, long time before they make up an equal part of your gaming experience. Lots of times it just never even occurs to game developers someone would want to play as a girl.

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Reviews for the Lazy Gamer: Life Is Strange

Categories: Gaming

Game: Life is Strange

Platform: PS4, Xbox 360, PC

Publisher/Developer: Square Enix/Dontnod

Genre: Interactive drama

Score: 7 out of 10

Synopsis: Max Caulfield has returned to her small town to study photography with a famous artist, only to discover that she can rewind time itself to change outcomes. How she uses her powers will change the world.

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The Top 5 Left-Handed Video Game Characters

Categories: Gaming

Devil May Cry 4
It doesn't really count when your other hand is demonically possessed.
My wife is left-handed, and she also happened to go to grade school at a time and place where children writing with their left hands were seen as needing correction because everyone knows that's how Satan sneaks gay Communism into you. So for many years of her life, she suffered teachers who actively discouraged her use of her southern paw right down to sending letters home to her parents pleading with them to do something about heretical hand usage.

The result is that she is a little sensitive to how left-handed people are portrayed in media. Where most of us wouldn't notice that a villain is the only lefty in the room, she's always quick to point it out. There's even a whole TV Trope page dedicated to this nonsense. Today I thought I'd cheer her up by pointing out that some of the bravest and the best video-game heroes out there share her dominant hand.

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10 Great Spooky Board Games From the Past

Photo by Brett Taylor
There's got to be some spooky games in there somewhere...

Board games have been around a long time, and despite being a now older form of entertainment, there are lots of great ones that still manage to be fun. Sure, the old standbys such as "Monopoly" and "Risk" are a lot of fun, but I always liked the games with a spooky theme to them, and there have been quite a few released over the years. These are but a few I have enjoyed.

10. "Jaws" (1975)

Released around the same time the '70s blockbuster was, "Jaws" is not really a "board game," strictly speaking, but it's aimed at the same crowd who play them. The game consists of a fairly large plastic shark with an open mouth full of junk, which players attempt to fish out with hooks. One wrong move and the jaw snaps shut. A few years later, an "Alligator" version was released in conjunction with the fun "Jaws" copycat film Alligator. While "Jaws" is not the most challenging game ever made, that shark is cool-looking.

9. Ka-Bala (1967)

Billed as "The mysterious game that foretells the future," this weird oddity came out in the late '60s, and it shows. Riding the line between "fortune-telling device" and "game," Ka-Bala consisted of a glow-in-the-dark sculpted board with a scary-looking "Eye of Zohar" that would tell the player's future. It's a pretty weird system, and more akin to a Ouija board than to a typical game. Seeing as how Ka-Bala combined strange elements of Tarot cards, talking boards, astrology and even kabbalistic mysticism, this is also one that probably upset quite a few religious relatives and friends way back when.

8. Fireball Island (1986)

Fireball Island may be the most fun game on this list, and unfortunately it hasn't been manufactured for a long time, and is a collectible -- Copies on eBay often sell for hundreds of dollars. The board is a large 3D representation of an island with a volcano in the center, and players race around the board, trying to get a jewel and then make it to a waiting boat, while being pursued by others who wish to steal the ruby for themselves. There's quite a bit of strategy, and games can last awhile. On top of everything else, there's an evil-looking idol on the volcano that will shoot fireballs (red marbles) that can knock a player out temporarily. While not exactly "spooky," it's a lot of fun, and that Volcano idol guy is pretty scary.

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Four Videos That Will Make You Feel Bad About Your Video Game Skills

Categories: Gaming

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time: The reason you see ocarinas at RenFests.
Few things in life are quite as satisfying as beating a video game. That rush of excitement is the reward for time spent, controllers broken and responsibilities neglected. It is a triumph, one to be savored for as long as it takes you to move on to the next game.

While that excitement might be enough for us run of the mill video game players, it's not enough for everyone. And so comes the world of speedrunning, where people seek to beat videogames as fast as possible. Most of us can beat Super Mario Bros. eventually, but only the best of the best of the best of us could beat it in less than 5 minutes.

Speedrunning has developed quite a following online, but even then watching someone smash through the beautiful mess of glitches that is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time for the 20th time is only so interesting.

Luckily, there are a few gamers out there who have taken on new, weirder video game challenges.

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5 Reasons Thief Was My Favorite Game of 2014

Categories: Gaming

When Square Enix dropped its reboot of the Thief franchise it was met by a pretty solid wall of "meh", including from yours truly. As a reboot goes it wasn't the near-perfect work that Tomb Raider had been for SE and mostly the game just felt like a slightly less awesome version of Dishonored.

There's no doubt the game has problems. Its map is joke, the guard AI can get very twitchy and the lack of a fast travel option can seriously get on your nerves considering how much of the city is made up of dead ends and frustrating warp points that often make no sense.

Despite all that and my own lackluster review of the game on first look Thief grew on me until it honestly became my favorite release of all of 2014, Reasons include...

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3 Reasons They Need to Stop Trying to Bring Pac-Man Back

Categories: Gaming

Last year Namco released Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures to tie-in with the new cartoon series my daughter has recently become annoyingly addicted to on Netflix. It's just the latest attempt to dust off the legendary early gaming pioneer and repackage him for the current generation.

Which they really need to stop doing.

Look, Pac-Man was great. There was even a Pac-Man section of Six Flags Over Texas back in the day. That said, every time they try and bring Pac-Man into the modern age it's an inevitable screw-up because...

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Why #GamerGate Failed: A Look Back at 2014's Most Ridiculous Movement

Categories: Gaming

Anita Sarkeesian on The Colbert Report
Update: The original version of this story used a screenshot of Lewis Denby and Ashton Raze's Richard and Alice instead of Zoe Quinn's Depression Quest. Thanks to commenter LionUCS for pointing out the error.

When media critic and creator of Feminist Frequency Anita Sarkeesian appeared on The Colbert Report near Halloween it seemed to come out of nowhere. Sarkeesian herself only announced it hours before it was to air, and Twitter and Reddit lit up as detractors to her Tropes vs. Women in Video Games series discussed what she might say from the forum regarding the GamerGate phenomenon that had recently gained national news.

In all honesty neither Sarkeesian nor Colbert said anything particularly new or noteworthy for either of them. Colbert danced the line between playing his characters and reaching for understanding as always, and Sarkeesian brought a travel-sized version of her regular talking points. What it did do was drag the essence of the gory GamerGate mess into the spotlight for five whole minutes and revealed to the mainstream how utterly toxic and ridiculous it truly was.

It was a mortal wound for the movement and signaled its slow demise. A look at the hashtag's usage on Twitter shows a rallying spike around the discussion on Colbert, but then a slow, steady decline that continues as we head into 2015. America got a good look at GamerGate and pretty clearly it didn't think very much of it.

So why did it fail?

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