Smacking a YouTuber with their own selfie stick is a new peak for video game catharsis

One of the Yakuza series’ greatest strengths is its obsession with a single small chunk of Tokyo. There have been secondary locations for its stars to wander and brawl around, but the bulk of the action is always in Kamurocho, a seedy red-light district standing in for real-world Tokyo’s entertainment center,…

How Sonic Mania’s first level sets the stage for a nostalgia-twisting adventure

As pop culture’s booming nostalgia-industrial complex goes to show, the comfort and delight we find in the familiar is only amplified the longer we go without it. Two of gaming’s most recent hits, Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy and Sonic Mania, reach back more than 20 years for the subjects of their respective…

How a bizarre bomb-defusing game hides an object lesson in handling any crisis

Paranoia is a perfidious foe. The truth is, it sticks because it’s rooted in our terrible knowledge that danger really is everywhere. The person behind you on the Macy’s escalator might actually be a murderer. That candy apple might actually have a razor blade in it. You don’t know. Prove it doesn’t! Paranoia may eat…

Reality intrudes on Splinter Cell: Conviction’s action fantasy in unsettling ways

Splinter Cell: Conviction stars a Sam Fisher on his last ropes. The stealth soldier extraordinaire has left Third Echelon, his super-secret government agency, after a disastrous undercover assignment that ended with both his best friend and daughter dead. In the aftermath, he’s been pulling a Jack Bauer between…

Assassin’s Creed IV turns a dull framing device into a deep meta-joke

Something is amiss in the original Assassin’s Creed trailer from 2006. First revealed at that year’s E3 trade show, the game presents itself as a stealth action title that revolves around stabbing people in the neck with a hidden wrist blade. But that’s not really what’s going on. Throughout the video, the screen…