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Even though I grew up largely on action-oriented games like Wario World, A Link To The Past, and Pilotwings, there was always something about Final Fantasy that drew me in. As a writer, I like to tell myself that it’s the intricate storylines but that’s just not true. The reality is that I love menus. I’m not ashamed to admit it: if there’s a bunch of different classes, armour materials, crafting gems, weapon types, you name it, I’m there.

When I opened up A Dark Room by Doublespeak on my phone, skeptical because of the crummy-looking screenshots, I was immediately turned off because it was so far from the pixel-art, one-touch controls of so many other games out there. But I forced myself to play it a bit more, trying to get into the menu system a bit. It was about half an hour in that things really opened up and that rush of manipulating menus kicked in.

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Candy Crush SagaThis post was actually inspired by my first few hours of playing DOTA 2, a free-to-play game that just doesn’t feel like it should be free. It’s intricate and fun, easy to get into but hard to master, it even gives you free powerups. So where does it make its money? I don’t actually know, but I’m sure it’s somewhere that isn’t nearly as obtrusive as some of the recent mobile games out there.

My first real experience with a pay-to-win model was playing Bejeweled Blitz against some friends over facebook. It was harmless enough but, as I got more into it, I realized pretty quickly that paying real cash for in game-currency would actually get you a higher score once you used that currency to buy the heavy-duty powerups. Then the icing on the “free-to-play” cake came when I tried to play through Candy Crush Saga without buying a thing.

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super hexagon

On the recommendation of numerous video game podcast hosts, I downloaded Super Hexagon on my iPhone a few months back. I was wary but excited because of all the good things I had heard about it. For those who’ve never played it, here’s some gameplay footage. Obviously, it’s an incredibly hard game. The controls are simple but there are so many things moving around and changing direction that it’s easy to get completely lost and die after just a few seconds (like I did…over and over again). Now, there exists tips on how to beat the game (yes it’s possible to beat Super Hexagon), but after looking up strategies and tricks, I couldn’t help but think to myself: what’s the point of all this? As I dug a bit deeper, things got pretty dark.

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868-hack cap

Michael Brough has frustrated gamers before with his extremely cryptic games like Corrypt and Zaga 33, but 868-Hack is probably his best yet. Why? Because it’s easy to understand yet still incredibly complex. I’m going to be talking about how the balancing in this game makes it stand out as a simple structure that still has great depth. Many games employ some very complicated balancing strategies that are never really witnessed or understood by their players: 868-Hack is the opposite, opting for a balancing system that is bold-faced in its simplicity. It’s for this reason that I saw how much potential it has as a lesson in balance.

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There’s been controversy about the existence of clones in video games for a long time, dating back to even Tetris vs. Dr. Mario days. Which one is the better one? Should we judge every game sheerly on merit, or does originality count for something? I’ll be honest, I played Dr. Mario years after I played Tetris and I didn’t enjoy it even a little: I just wanted to play Tetris instead. That may be why my reaction to the Threes clone, 2048, is so confusing.

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