Rejoice, restless current-gen gamers: Sony’s PlayStation 4 will be hitting stores on Nov. 15 and Microsoft’s XBox One will be dropping around the same time. But what to do until then? Here are a few oddball releases from the past few weeks that pulled the medium in unexpected directions and away from the usual running and gunning — perfect while we wait for our shiny new consoles.
Some gamers have grown weary of shooting at nameless foes from fictitious Communist nations, so Papers, Please offers the rare opportunity to simply treat them like shit. In this graphically minimal strategy game, players are given a high-profile public sector gig manning the booth at the Arstotzkan border. One by one potential entrants present to you their documents (hence the game’s title), and it’s up to you to comb through the rulebooks, examine their passports and suss out illegal travellers. Of course, with Arstotzka being a dysfunctional Eastern Bloc state, every day you’re given new rules regarding who gets in and who doesn’t. And at the end of the day, you’re given the pleasure of allocating your meagre pay to providing your jobless family with heat, food or medicine.
Papers, Please doesn’t have much in the way of graphics, but it does feature two stamps (one for approval, one for rejection) that are incredibly fun to wield, and one can’t help but feel a tinge of pride for Mother Arstotzka when telling some tired refugee to take a hike. It’s available on Windows and Mac.
Nobody likes coming home to an empty house, which is the premise of Gone Home, an atmospheric first-person mystery where a family member has left and you’re not sure why. The house isn’t crawling with real dangers, but rather inanimate objects to interact with. There are so many tactile things in the house, things that could explain what’s going on in your digs, that your imagination can’t help but run wild. Turns out a creaking door is scarier here, where the contents of the next room are unknown, rather than going in knowing you’re going to shoot some baddies in the dark. It’s also available on Windows and Mac.
Last but not least, there’s Brothers: A Tale of Two. Developed by Starbreeze, creators of the underrated adaptation of The Darkness comic book, players control two siblings at the same time using each thumbstick. It’s a platformer set in a storybook world, so be prepared to jump and dodge inventive and deadly obstacles, albeit with twice the difficulty. It’s a devious and rewarding new twist on a familiar type of quest. It’s out on Windows, PS3 and XBox 360. ■