Mailing list


The Pop Culture Wing of Hot Corner Harbor

Sunday, January 21, 2018

A Hat in Time and Level Design Philosophies in 3-D Platformers

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my favorite indie games from the past year and I lavished high praise on A Hat in Time by the development team Gears for Breakfast. It’s a throwback to the 3D platformers of the ‘90s and early 2000s that I loved growing up, but like all of the best nostalgic throwbacks, it’s good not just because it references the classics of a past, but because it understands what made those classics work, and consciously decides to do its own thing. Now that I’ve more or less finished the entire game, I feel like I can begin to break down some of the things that the game does especially well.

Every aspect of A Hat in Time is meticulously designed and pitch perfect. The aesthetic side of things are incredibly strong; the game is filled with beautifully-animated, cel-shaded style worlds, each with it’s own hilariously-written and quirky side characters. The entire thing is scored with a triumphant and exciting soundtrack that makes you feel ready to set out on an adventure. Protagonist Hat Girl is given a strong personality with almost no dialogue, and is one of my favorite new main characters in the past decade or so. The controls are tight and so much fun to use, which is critical to a platformer that relies on navigating spaces. Few games make simply moving around a level feel so natural and easy.

And while that all is nice, there’s one specific aspect of the design that I’d like to focus on: the construction of the worlds that serve as your digital playgrounds. A Hat in Time makes some interesting choices in how they went about building these stages that I feel like digging into a little, because I think the variety they provide are part of what keeps the game feel so exciting and new at every turn.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

My Favorite Indie Games of 2017

I’ve written a decent amount in 2017 about video games, but mostly about larger titles from bigger companies. It’s not necessarily bad, but it’s also not really indicative of a lot of what I played this year, either. And that’s kind of a shame, because a lot of smaller, indie titles rely on good word-of-mouth to get attention. So maybe I’ll write a full article about one or more of these games later, but in the meantime, I wanted to run down a list of the smaller titles that I enjoyed this year. Not all of them came out this year, necessarily, but part of the joy of smaller games is finding something you missed the first time. With that in mind, consider looking into one or more of these if they sound interesting.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Music Monday: Best Music of 2017

Picking my favorite music for a year is a little weird, the more I delve into it. A lot of stuff that I “discovered” this year actually came out last year or earlier. Some of my favorite albums that came out in 2017 include songs that were released in 2016 or even 2015. When you think about it even more, there’s a very good chance that I haven’t even heard my favorite song from 2017 yet. Even if I have, I still might grow a new appreciation for something that I initially brushed off. Drawing up lists like this always involves some degree of arbitrariness.

But I still wanted to do something to mark the end of the year, so I built a list of my favorite songs from this year. I tried to stick to a full rules, though:

1) Songs should be from 2017 when possible. 2016 is okay if I wasn’t aware of the artist until this year, or if the song was released as an early single for a full album that came out in 2017, but try not to go earlier than that.

2) I decided to limit myself to 2 songs from a given artist. If they have two songs on the list, it should either be because the artist had multiple releases this year, or because I really liked the release in question. Generally speaking, I like the larger body of work of every artist here and would recommend listening to more of any of them if you like what I included here, but I didn’t want the list bloating up too much; it’s already nearly 5 hours as is.

Seeing as this list is 80 songs, I’m not going to touch on every single inclusion, but I’ll highlight a few things here and there. With that out of the way, let’s get to it: