5+ returns and this time we take a look at exemplary settings in video games. The following environments are filled with enough detail that they become characters themselves.
Kattelox Island feels so alive that I honestly would retire there if I could. Every major building can be entered and explored and there are plenty of little details to find that make the city feel as real as the original Playstation and Nintendo 64 will allow. Some of my favorites are the TV studio where you can play mini-games on a game show for cash prizes, an art museum that displays rare artifacts that you’ve found on your adventures, and a music store where you can listen to various sample tracks that aren’t used in any other part of the game. The dungeons you fight through are also clever in that almost all of them turn out to be sections of one large, interconnected dungeon.
Video games have had me save the world more times than I can count. Saving the world is plenty of fun but it can lose its charm if it doesn’t work keep things interesting. Okami stands out in how much of a visible impact you make on Japan as you restore it from the blight that has fallen upon it. The cursed land feels dead and the restored land is brimming with light. The most awe-inspiring element is the cutscene that shows the transition of an area being restored. Have a look at this video of the transformation in action for a taste of it. However, the true experience comes from playing the game itself and getting a personal feel for world and the transformation you make in it.
Guardia on its own is nothing special compared to other 16-bit RPGs but what sets it apart is the ability to travel through time and see the world in a number of different eras. You explore the same world map in its prehistory, ice age, medieval era, golden age, and post-apocalyptic future. The journey gives you a full sense of Guardia’s history and everything the world and its inhabitants have gone through across the millennia. Seeing all of that gives the player all the motivation needed to save Guardia from destruction.
Rapture definitely captures the sense of a fallen utopia. As you explore the crumbling avenues, you get the sense that this city would have been paradise to live in during its prime but now it fills you with dread for what lurks around every corner. Be it the gardens of Arcadia or the art exhibits of Fort Frolic, there is always a sense of glory just out of reach. It is a stunning contrast of beauty and desolation that blends together magnificently.
When you think of levels in a video game, the same set of usual suspects often shows up. Forest level, ice level, desert level, etc. These templates appear in everything from Super Mario to Call of Duty. Psychonauts, on the other hand, has a repressed-memories level, a paranoid-schizophrenia level, and a Napoleon-complex level to name a few. Most of the game is spent within projections of the minds of various colorful characters and it’s the job of Raz to explore these psyches and set them right. The final level takes a brilliant turn by combining the parallel pasts of the hero and villain into a single nightmare. Examining every detail of the mental worlds and how they reflect the characters they reside within is endlessly fascinating and provides the most memorable level design I know of.
The mental worlds may be the best settings I know of but I’m sure you all have some great choices of your own. Let us know in the comments what should be featured on next week’s 5+ and why. Feel free to make multiple submission and post anonymously if you so desire.