ROLE PLAYGROUND | Does Mulaka's mythos make up for it's broken gameplay?

On one hand, it's nice to know some very base knowledge about a new culture - but does the game stack up?

Games often take a lot of liberties when drawing from mythologies: God of War, Dante's Inferno, Assassin's Creed, etc. All of these games took what they wanted from canon and presented a modified and video game-friendly version, goddesses and creatures they barrowed. Mulaka, a new game from small time Mexican indie developer, Lienzo, joins this tradition with their action-platformer, Mulaka.


In Mulaka, you are a Sukururame, a shaman of the Tarahumara people of Mexico. You travel around the various landscapes and have the simple task of helping villagers and seeking help from the gods to prevent the destruction of the world. Throughout, you learn more and more about the Tarahumara people and their beliefs and their myths.

It's a lovely soirée into a culture that I've never learned about - and while I can't speak to its accuracy, it was nice to see that there was effort put into educating the audience as we played.

Keep ReadingShow less

VIDEO GAY-MER | Why do we love visual novels so much?

What do queer gamers/developers love the visual novel platform so much?

Coming Out on Top game trailer

Visual novels are an art form, and when done right, they are an amazing storytelling tool. We've seen a lot of good, queer visual novels in the past years - or games that are about as close to visual novels as you can get. Just last year, we had two instant classics: Butterfly Soup and Dream Daddy, take the world by storm. Not only did they showcase incredible queer stories, but they managed to do it without any ounce of mockery or depressing melodrama.

So, I got curious.

What makes these kinds of games so incredible? And why are there so many? On Queerly Represent Me - a large back log of games with some sort of queer representation within them- 215 games are listed as visual novels. That's the largest genre of games on the list, clocking in at 20%. It doesn't sound like a lot, but it is - and that's significant. What draws queer gamers and developers to these specific type of game? I think that visual novels not only provide a simple, fun escape from the harshness of modern queer depiction, but they are also accessible, and cheaper than most other video games on the market.

In my last article, I wrote about a game called Butterfly Soup - a beautiful visual novel that covered the lives of four queer, Asian woman going through high school during Prop 8-era California. I gushed about it, and talked about how it's unabashed happiness just made me smile. And that's not something that happens in a lot of major games or successful indie games. Even a beautiful game like Gone Home, is mired with intense drama, reminding the audience about how much it can suck to be a queer person. That doesn't exist in games like Butterfly Soup.

There's an inherent layer of sexuality that exists in a lot of these kinds of games.

A huge example is a gay dating sim, Coming Out on Top, a very NSFW visual novel about a young, freshly out, college senior who is looking for love and sex. This game has a huge selection of guys you can seduce, and even goes the extra mile to have you come out to your friends and actively maintain your friendships. All the while, you are treated to some saucy pics and scenes of your gay character actually having/enjoying sex.

It's liberating, because even when queer people are depicted having sex - it's never correct. There's always that one scene where the guy doesn't use lube - and then you cringe, cause you know they got hurt. The visual novels I've played don't have that problem - because they're made by queer developers.

I think queer visual novels exist in such volumes because they can be easier to make than other games like RPGs of even exploration sims.

I can't say I'm an expert on game development, and visual novels definitely have their own set of challenges, but they can be made easily thanks to user friendly game engines. This accessibility allows young, queer game devs the opportunity to start making their own queer stories - and in an industry where people are starving for queer characters, they're bound to find an audience!

Visual novels are also cheaper for queer gamers to buy. Even a game like Dream Daddy, produced by the incredibly popular Game Grumps, went up for only 14.99. And Butterfly Soup is still free. This is worlds cheaper than most AAA games that include very basic forms of queer representation. So, there's a level of financial accessibility available for these types of games that don't exist in other places in the market.

In the end, visual novels make queer characters more accessible to a starving audience by being cheap - and they can empower their audience by giving them an escape from the misrepresentation they receive from mainstream media. These games are about queer characters, and made for queer people - and I only hope that the rest of the industry can follow suit. Until they do though, I'm just going to go and replay Dream Daddy for millionth time and cry about how beautiful Robert is.

Keep ReadingShow less

GAMING TOP 10 | Another Top 10 most anticipated video games of 2018

I cannot wait to play these freaking games!

Where The Water Tastes Like Wine - Story Trailer

Earlier last month, esteemed contributor Liam Berry released his Top 10 most anticipated games of 2018 - and I figured I had to put my hat in the ring! Kicking off our newest bi-weekly column, I am going to discuss some games that I am super hyped about that aren't out yet.

2017 was a great year for video games. We had some astounding horror releases, a bunch of amazing queer-oriented games, and some pretty top notch AAA juggernauts. And now that that year has come and went, it's time to take a look at just how amazing the rest of 2018 is going to be. We've got a slew of brilliant titles heading to the market this year, and I am cautiously optimistic about how all of these games are going to turn out!

6. Where the Water Tastes Like Wine (PC) Release Date: ???

This is one of the more unique games on the list, and I almost didn't include it, until I saw that it was made by Fullbright alum and Gone Home programmer, Johnnemann Nordhagen, under his new company, Dum Bulb productions. I'm not totally sure if this game is going to be my cup of tea, but I would be lying if I didn't say that both it's incredibly style and interesting premise to leave me wanting to at least give this new game a try.

What do you think?

10. Marvel' Spider-Man (PS4) Release Date: ???

Listen, I know we've been burned in the past. A good Spider-Man game hasn't been released since the PS2! But, there's no way you can look at this trailer and not think this is going to be amazing. It seems Insomniac is taking Rocksteady and WB Montreal's lead and giving the game an Arkham-esque treatment. It's got all the trimmings to be a fun action-oriented, open-world title with what look to be stealth elements.

But will it be too similar to the Batman series we've all come to love? I don't know, and frankly, I don't care. Not only does this look beautifully vibrant and colorful, but playing as the spunky web-slinger will definitely be a change of pace from the brooding Bruce Wayne.

Am I too excited? Maybe. Could it wind up being terrible? Heck yeah. But I did say I was cautiouslly optimistic.

9. Darksiders III (PC, PS4, XBOX ONE) Release Date: ???

I am die-hard Darksiders fan. I have played both games repeatedly and loved every second of it. I don't know what it is about post-Apocalyptic video games - especially ones with personifications of things like angels and the Four Horsemen - but I can't get enough of them. Are they the best games ever created? No, of course not, but I don't care! They're so much fun.

And the best part about this one is that it has a bad-ass female lead who isn't sexualized. She also appears to be on the same playing field as her other two brothers - and honestly looks like she could kick their asses.

Who else is pumped?

8. Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom (PS4) Release Date: 3/23/18

Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch was released and immediately became a modern classic - and finally, after years of waiting, we're about get a sequel. I'll always have mixed feelings about Ni No Kuni, but even I cannot deny that it was a beautiful game with an engaging story that can still keep you hooked despite the fact that you're still learning how to play it 60-minutes in.

It seems that Revenant Kingdom is focusing just as much energy on it's characters and visuals as it's predecessor. I can't say too much about anything else, but I can tell you that I'm pretty pumped to play it.

7. Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes (SWITCH) Release Date: ???

NO. MORE. HEROES! One of the most missed games in from Nintendo's Wii era, is getting a sequel and it looks like it's going to pack a pretty hilarious punch. It's been years since I picked up a Wii-mote to slash through the top ten assassins - but I can still remember the unabashed glee the experience gave.

I wish I could say more, but given the meta-humor of the trailer and the fun stylized visuals - I can definitely say that Travis Strikes Back is going to be one helluva ride.

5. System Shock (PC, PS4, XBOX ONE) Release Date: ???

Oh man. Oh man. Oh man. So, I'm a huge fan of System Shock II. Unfortunately, I haven't had the chance to play the original (don't shoot me), but I cannot wait to see this remake come to life. After raising about 1.3 million dollars on Kickstarter, this game is set for release at some point this year. AND DOESN'T IT LOOK TERRIFYING?

I have to say, even if it's Pre-Alpha phase, this game gives you a sense of dread. It's controls look a little funky, but I'm sure that's not going to be a problem during it's full release. I'm glad to see that System Shock make it's comeback into to gaming scene - and I can't wait to boot it up on my PC!

4. Far Cry 5 (PC, PS4, XBOX ONE) Release Date: 3/27/14

I've never been a huge fan of the Far Cry series - I know it's good, but it's never been something I've been super into. I played through Far Cry 4, and while it had some beautiful visuals, I just felt the whole game was a little... "meh." Still, I know that it's a good series, and I understand why people love it as much as they.

Far Cry 5, though, seems to be a bit of departure for the series. Instead of beautiful, exotic locales fighting against warring factions of and war bosses - we're fighting against a militant evangelical cult? This is both a bold and incredibly political choice for Ubisoft, and I can't wait to see if it's paid off.

3. God of War (PS4) Release Date: 4/20/2018

Listen. No, seriously, listen. I have never liked God of War. I have gotten into huge arguments about how it's gratuitous and obnoxiously sexual for no reason - but I'll be damned if this trailer didn't blow me away. Why? Because we're finally seeing something in Kratos, the main character of the series, besides some sort of blood-hungry monster.

There's a lot here that I love: The departure from Greek Mythology and the exploration of the Norse realm; Kratos being compassionate and at least somewhat emotionally vulnerable; Kratos' SON, who looks to be as much of a ball of rage as his father! It's incredible - and a major (but welcome) departure from the usual tone of the incredibly violent series.

1. 2. Red Dead Redemption 2 (PS4, XBOX ONE) Release Date: 10/26/18

So, full disclosure, I have never played Red Dead Redemption. I know, shoot me down and burn me in a pit with the rest of the fake gamers - but I never owned a PS3 and I live on a budget, so the opportunity never arose. I know all about it though. I've seen the many Let's Plays and think pieces about it's ending and it's main character. I am aware that it has a lot of significance in the gaming community (and I'm buying it when I get my next paycheck, okay).

Saying all of that, I understand the hype around it's sequel. But I have to wonder, will it carry the same weight as it's predecessor? It certainly looks beautiful, and the characters definitely kept me engaged throughout the trailer, but time will tell.

After all, this game has a lot to live up to.

1. Kingdom Hearts 3 (PS4, XBOX ONE) Release Date: ???

I'm dead. I have died. After all, that's the only logical explanation for this. There's no way Kingdom Hearts III is actually coming out this year, is there? I mean, it's not like it's been thirteen years since I first played Kingdom Hearts II. It's not like I've played every single goddamned title Square Enix and co. have released on every freaking handheld system. I have to be dreaming, right?


There you have it folks! My Top 10 most anticipated games of this year. I hope that you agree, and if you do not agree, then please leave me a constructive comment below. You can also go check out Liam's article, and see if your game is there! But let me tell you something, I think 2018 is going to be one of the biggest years for gaming yet - and I'm not just saying that because Kingdom Hearts III is getting released (JK, I totes am).
Keep ReadingShow less

VIDEO GAY-MER | Butterfly Soup is the Fun Portrayal of Queer Teendom We All Need

It's so hard to find queer games that are not only accurate portrayals of gay teens, but are also hella fun. This is one of them.

Oh man.

Not going to lie guys, I'm kicking myself in the head for not getting to this title sooner. Most of you have probably heard of Brianna Lei's Butterfly Soup, a visual novel that took the gaming world by storm last year. For those that haven't, it's about four queer Asian-American teens attending their first year of high school in California.

It's astounding writing, characters, and overall depiction of Asian American queer teens have led to other sites like Polygon, PC Gamer, and Kotaku calling it a stand out game of the year. And, after playing through most of it, I can see why.

Listen. I don't like visual novels half the time. Even something like Dream Daddy, which I loved, gets incredibly boring. I suffer through them, because it's where a lot of queer content gets produced It's not because they're bad, I just have a specific taste and I don't want to spend three or four or ten hours just reading text on a screen. But, I was happy to do it with Butterfly Soup, because it's just so fun.

And that should be a given, right? Dream Daddy was fun, wasn't it? And so was Gone Home (which isn't necessarily a visual novel, but close enough)? And Life is Strange (which also isn't necessarily a visual novel, but again, close enough)? That's true, but I think what separates Butterfly Soup from them is that has a sense of honesty without taking away the humor and light-heartedness at all and making it either super campy or super depressing.

As much as I love Gone Home, it focused a lot on the negative experiences of queer youth. You hear a lot about how it's main character struggled with both her identity and helping her partner. While this is a very honest representation of what a lot of young gay folks through - it's not the only experience that we have.

We have a community and we have a lot of queer friends, and often times we surround ourselves with other queer people. That's what happens during the entirety of this game. You are dropped in on the life of a young queer girl and her other queer friends. You see how they interact, and how they find love - and while it does have moments that can be on the serious side - it never gets sad or weepy. We never see these characters go on long monologues about how they can't accept themselves and how they'll never be happy.

This is accomplished through Lei's decision to give the player no control over the story. You occasionally get a few dialogue options, but in the end, you see what Lei wants you to see. You are on a guided tour of the story - not a participant in it. So, you aren't mired in finding extra stuff here or there (although, there are some extra observations you can make when prompted). So, while I did find myself getting bored, Lei managed to reel me back in with some pretty choice story-telling techniques that even AAA titles can learn from.

Throughout the game, you are treated to flashbacks, which show the four main characters' friendship through the years, instead of just one specific point of time. Each one makes the characters more dynamic and provides and insight that informs previous scenes. It's not disjointed and it's all connected.

And aside from the main cast, we are treated to actual diverse characters of different races and sexualities. You have people of color, you have a trans character, bisexual characters - and even if they aren't big, they're still real. Even in a lot of queer-themed visual novels, you usually only get a lesbian or a gay man's story - and while this story does focus mainly on a relationship between two women - we still get a solid cast of fleshed out characters that are not exclusively gay and cisgender.

As I play through - I'm just smiling and relating. I don't feel sad and I don't feel that same sense of, "Man it's so hard being gay," that so much media gives me. That kind of media is important, we should always remember/be reminded of the struggle that people - especially young people - in the community deal with. But it's also important to show that it doesn't always have to be that way. It is possible to be young and happy - even if you're struggling, you can find people who loves and accepts you.

Butterfly Soup is a special game - it uses fun characters and brilliant storytelling to give you an honest and non-sad portrayal of a diverse group of young, queer women in a time where it's very difficult to be a young, queer woman. While it doesn't offer a huge variety in terms of gameplay, it weaves something that leaves you smiling and cheering and laughing.

Please, please, please go play it. You can get it for free right here - and make sure you leave Brianna Lei a damn good review when you're done.

Keep ReadingShow less