The concept behind Audiosurf is that you play as a levitating vehicle, navigating through a colorful, multi-lane highway, akin to the gameplay and style of games such as F-Zero. The player collects points by collecting colorful blocks, and can gain additional points by stacking the blocks behind the vehicle. Achievements can be made through certain conditions, such as eliminating all blocks from the racetrack, or by eliminating all of a particular color. The defining characteristic of the game is that music determines how the level will play out, as it affects the track, and the placement and number of blocks. This music is not originally composed: the player is able to choose any mp3 files on their hard drive, or anything in an inserted CD, to use in the level they play. Any conceivable piece, from "Dies Irae" to "Fly Me to the Moon" to "Three Little Birds", can be brought into the game experience with a few clicks. There is a high replayability rate to this game, as critics and players have cited, due to the innate and immense variety of experiences the player can have, and the dynamic, yet simple nature of the gameplay. The blocks are assorted in a way to match the beats of the song, and helps to engage the player in the game world, through a visualization of music. Songs with differing tempos, genres, and tones thus will present different challenges to the player. A bombastic and frantic rock ballad will be more challenging to a player who wants to catch all the blocks in their level, in comparison to a calm, smooth jazz piece. This diversity of gameplay options keeps the experience fresh for the player. Giving the player this opportunity to customize their experience also has the potential to establish a more meaningful connection between the player and the game, as they can theoretically play the game to the backdrop of their favorite music. There are also a number of "characters" (different vehicles) the player can select, which alter the gaming experience in some way or another. For example, there are characters that utilize two vehicles, or only collect blocks of certain colors. These add little augmentations to the gameplay that solidifies Audiosurf's replayability.
Portal's primary mechanic is self-evident, the player character being tasked to solve increasingly complex puzzles utilizing a gun that can create up to two portals at the time. This primary mechanic proves dynamc in the puzzles the player is faced against as the game progresses, and forces the player to think critically about where the player character, or an object, will go according to the portals, and how much momentum either one will have. The game is linear, and it engages the player through not only the challenge of the puzzles, but also the inherent fun that can come through the freedom the player is given to experiment with portal technology. For example, the player may align two portals parallel to one another, at the floor and ceiling, and have an object or the player character go into a perpetual state of falling. This, of course, can be broken by a well-timed firing of the Portal Gun, and this highlights the attention to detail the team at Valve gave to iron out as many potential game-breaking moments as possible. As the player continues, there is an increasing challenge to the puzzles as where a portal may be placed is made less clear, with complicated factors such as having to redirect a ball of energy to hit a mechanism that will open a door, making parts of the floor and the ceiling impervious to the effects of the Portal Gun, and having to avoid or defeat enemies (being gun-toting drones). There is a sense that, as the player progresses, the game adjusts to the skill level they are building up. Balance is established well, in that there are no unpleasant surprises or conditions that severely interrupt the flow of the gameplay; the enemies and the increasing challenges are eased upon the player, and are presented in a manner that encourages problem-solving. There is a distinctive flare that is added to the narrative and characters of the game through the writing, which serves to not only distinguish the game, but also has the potential to greatly entertain the player. The player character is instructed over intercom by a computer called GLaDOS. This computer's voice recalls text-to-speech and personal assistant programs such as Siri, and its statements portray a quirky, narcissistic, and sarcastic character that is crucial in developing the style and feel for the game. Dark comedy is present throughout the game, and can be further seen in the comments drones make when defeated, saying things such as "I don't hate you" or "Goodbye." By incorporating a unique mechanic to solve puzzles, and keeping the player going through a steadily more challenging gameplay, and entertainingly witty tone, Portal serves to be an engaging game.
The 1985 sidescroller Another World has been lauded for its cinematic storytelling, and distinct art style, and would go on to influence games such as Ico, Metal Gear Solid, and Silent Hill. For the sake of witnessing an interesting entry in the history of video games, Another World is worth playing, but its experience as a game can often be frustrating. There is an issue with balance, communication to the player, and arguably checkpoints. Much of the game's challenges are trial and error, as the player will unexpectedly run into poisonous gas, one of the members of the large alien species that populate the planet they are exploring, carnivorous plants, and disintegrating lasers. These at-times surprising deaths do seem fitting in the setting of an unfamiliar and perilous planet, but for a present-day gamer, the setbacks that can be had from continuously dying in the same fashion may read as excessive punishment. The game often gives the player to process sudden threats, yet they must respond quickly to avoid the death of their player character. If not approached with the right mindset, the player may find themselves frustrated at a game where, if they are not careful with their surroundings, their character could die very quickly after reloading at the previous checkpoint. Furthermore, considering the potential the player character has to perish, certain checkpoints are set back so far that the player may risk finding themselves in a situation where they are continuously repeating a particular section of the game, but end up being set back by a sudden death for their character.
The game of Zeno Clash, a first-person fighting game based largely in fistfighting, is set in a distinct fantasy world, has responsive controls, and is fun to play due to its unique combat mechanics of picking up, headbutting, kneeing, and either lightly or strongly punching opponents. As a player, my issue is not with the game as a whole, but rather its opening level. After the game tutors the player in how to handle the combat mechanics, the player character is immediately thrust into a scenario where they have to fight three formidable opponents at the same time. For a starting level in the game, this lacks balance for the player, putting them in a scenario that seems more fitting for a later point in the game. When the player is trying to pick off one of the first opponents, their character is left vulnerable to attacks from the other two characters. This can lead to the undesired death of the player character, perhaps even at a point where they have almost defeated the first of the three opponents. Guns are also utilized in this first section of the game, which can be severely disadvantageous in the aforementioned situation. Following this level, the game begins to progress more smoothly, with a better balance with opponents, and a supporting NPC being present to fight alongside the player character. It must be admitted that I myself have not completed the game, due to time constraints. Zeno Clash itself is a well-developed game, but its problem lies in its harsh "hit-the-ground-running" first fight, which may overwhelm new players, and is of a difficulty that seems inappopriate for the point the game is at.