Walkthrough: Kona

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The analysis I’ve been working on has again resulted in me writing a full-on game walkthrough, this time to Parabole’s 2017 game Kona. Again, I have decided that I might as well just post the results here, as a gesture of goodwill to the world.

There are some useful walkthroughs to Kona out there already, each with its own limitations. The most thorough walkthoughs explaining how to get 100% completion are videos, a format that I really dislike when it comes to games of this style. On the other hand, the written walkthroughs all exclude certain useful details, or sometimes have out-of-date details because they were written while the game was still in early access.

This walkthrough was written with the following goals in mind: thoroughly exploring and retrieving all documents from the game’s principle locations, and fully filling out the game’s journal. If you want to do those things, this is the guide for you. It’s not going to cover some other things, like where you can find all of the talismans and treasure hunt locations. If you want that sort of thing, you should check out another walkthrough (like this one here, which has a great map).  

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Walkthrough: The Painscreek Killings

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I’m in the midst of analyzing the detective game The Painscreek Killings (EQ Studios, 2017) right now, and as part of my process I ended up creating a quite detailed walkthrough. Since the work was already done, I figured I’d paste it over here, throw on some spoiler tags, and share it with the world. Might as well be generous.

There are a couple of other walkthroughs for Painscreek Killings out there, including this one here and this one here. I thought there was room on the internet for another walkthrough, though—one that was compact and consistently formatted. What follows are streamlined but nonetheless thorough details on how to proceed through the game.

Here’s a breakdown of how I’ve labeled things below:

gate is anything that obstructs your progress—usually a locked door, locked drawer, or literal locked gate.

Keys are absolutely necessary to get past a given gate in the game. These can be key items (literal physical keys, usually) that get added to your inventory, or key info (codes and puzzle hints) that often does not.

Clues point you in the direction of keys and solutions. They are not, however, mandatory. It is always possible (if unlikely) to stumble your way to the things indicated by clues just by exploring the world.

Embedded keys and clues are bits of information attached to an object that are important, but might not be immediately apparent: the date of a correspondence, a number stamped on a keepsake, a code mentioned in the pages of a diary, and the like.

Because of the nature of the game’s design (which is what I’m attempting to describe in my analysis), there is always going to be some amount of backtracking involved in it. The order I’ve listed the game’s locations in below minimizes backtracking as best as possible, without eliminating it.

Happy detecting!

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Interesting Games of 2018: A Belated Wrap-Up

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I fell behind on 2018 games thanks to my “Let’s Study Horror Games” series. Things kind of worked out in the end, though, because 2018 ended up being not quite as supersaturated with games as 2017. To be sure, it was a year of big releases, both on the mainstream AAA front and on the indie front. But it didn’t have the sheer firehose volume of 2017.

Since my mid-year post handled January through June, I was originally intending this post to mostly cover games that came out from July 1st onward. It turned out there were plenty of stragglers I missed in the previous post, so that organizational scheme ended up going out the window. A jumble of things below the jump.

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Interesting Games of 2018: The Year So Far

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Yes, I’m still alive.

When the end of June rolled around, I thought to myself, “hey, I should do one of those collections of capsule reviews of games from the first half of the year, just like I did last year.”

But then I prioritized peer-reviewed projects I’ve been working on, instead. I’ve had a productive summer, although I do regret not hanging a little “on summer vacation” sign on the blog, so it didn’t feel quite so abandoned.

Anyway, better late than never. Below the fold, you’ll find thoughts on games that have piqued my interest so far in 2018.

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whoami

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Ian here—

For those of you who aren’t in the know, “whoami” is a command that was first implemented in Unix-based systems, allowing the user to see what account, with which types of access, they are currently recognized by the machine as being logged in under.

This post offers two quick takes on two games. (They both happen to be from 2012, for whatever reason—something in the water?) While playing both of them, “who am I?” is a surprisingly rich one. Sometimes, they keep the player’s role vague, surprising them with the amount of agency they have, and the degree to which they seem to be inside or outside the game’s story. Other times, they are quite clear on who the player “is,” but leave plenty of room for interpretation as to what occupying this role means. Take care below: spoilers aplenty.

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Lesson Plan: Lying Narration in Cinema and Videogames

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Ian here—

In my 2013 “Comparative Media Poetics: Cinema and Videogames” course, I devoted a week to the genres of mystery and suspense. In this first class of this week, we discussed theory. Students read a portion of David Bordwell’s Narration in the Fiction Film, in which he discusses the concept of communicativeness of narration, and the specific ways communicativeness is clamped down in the detective genre. We also discussed the ways in which mysteries play with time, using the formalist conceits of fabula and syuzhet that Bordwell draws from. This dovetailed with our second reading, Jesper Juul’s 2004 article “Introduction to Game Time,” in which he expresses skepticism that videogames could ever pull off a flashback-based story structure.

The screening for this week included the entirety of Alfred Hitchcock’s Stage Fright (1950), as well as selected chapters of Heavy Rain (Quantic Dream, 2010), which I had students play live, and discuss. We re-convened during the next class session for a discussion on unreliable narration and the relative “fairness” of twists. Readings included Kristin Thompson’s chapter on Stage Fright in Breaking the Glass Armor, and Emily Short’s writings on Heavy Rain. Spoilers on the (potentially unfair) twists of both texts below.

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Interfacing Intuition, or, the GUIness of the Detective’s Gaze

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Minority Report (Steven Spielberg, 2002)

Ian here—

What follows is my talk from SCMS 2016 in Atlanta, GA. You can follow along with the visual presentation here.

The moving image and the graphical user interface: they are often regarded as two separate forms, with their own unique histories, and with resulting divergent aesthetics. Recent years, however, have seen this division beginning to break down, as the GUI has gradually invaded moving-image storytelling.

Representations of the graphical user interface have a long history in science-fiction, from the augmented reality elements that clutter the cyborg’s point-of-view to the fantastic potentials of human-machine interfaces. Continue reading