Xbox Left the Thrills At Home With October’s Unexciting Games With Gold
Overlap can be a death knell whenever these monthly free games for subscription services are announced, yet that’s the grounds the Xbox digs into with these Games With Gold offerings for October, in a few different ways. In one area, for the One, they’re offering a visual-novel style of experience that was featured prominently in their competitor’s roster last year. On the 360 side of things, they’re double-dipping on the back catalogue of a popular franchise that hallmarked their last-gen system offerings earlier this year. One unique indie title and another marginally positive-reviewed military shooter can’t offer enough variety to offset it, either, which isn’t helped by the general lack of horror-themed games that might play into the season’s atmosphere, beyond that one repeat title.
Granted, selecting October as the month to present the interactive drama Gone Home as a freebie is a wiser decision than dropping it into the roster at the beginning of the summer. The atmosphere of the focal mansion home, investigated by twenty-something Kaitlin Greenbriar when she returns from her travels abroad, taps into a familiarly eerie tone reminiscent of classic point-and-click adventure games of yesteryear. Memories of the experiences one had with the likes of Myst and 7th Guest will come rushing back as the player acclimates to the evolving mystery and puzzle-solving surrounding Kaitlin’s family, which gains context the deeper that the player delves into the clues presented to them. Gone Home doesn’t hinge on the supernatural, though, instead unearthing layers of personal turmoil involving the repercussions of deteriorating relationships, but the eerie tone of the mystery makes for an absorbing interactive experience during the Halloween season.
The Turing Test
The movie The Imitation Game introduced more of a widespread audience to Alan Turing, a key figure during World War II for his use of early computers to decode German radio frequencies. Broader science-fiction audiences have been exposed to the British scientist’s name, however, due to the his Turing Test, an element often utilized in artificial intelligence fiction (recently, Ex Machina) as the gauge in which one can decipher whether an entity is human or not. The dynamics of the actual original test play a key role in Bulkhead Interactive’s The Turing Test, a first-person puzzle game set on Jupiter’s Europa moon, in which an engineer, Ava Turing, must cooperate with an AI to uncover the mysteries of an established facility and potentially save endangered lives. Twists in the story generate a harrowing sci-fi tempo reminiscent of Valve’s different universes, with the puzzles themselves and the visual prowess of the design pumping life into its brief but engrossing trials.
Rayman 3 HD
A quick glance at the Rayman catalog reveals that there are roughly three dozen games that have taken place in Ubisoft’s colorful platformer universe, to which the fourth core installment in the narrative, Rayman Origins, appeared in Xbox’s Games With Gold earlier this year. They’ve gone back to the well this month with Rayman 3 HD, a remastered version of Hoodlum Havoc released nearly a decade after its initial debut. As Rayman uses a slew of special powers at his disposal to battle the black (hood)lum minions spawned by baddie Andre, the game stays true to the original’s platforming intentions with little deviation, both a strength and a weakness when propped against modern game designs. Rayman 3 HD tests the threshold between nostalgia and dated mechanics.
Medal of Honor: Airborne
Several years before the first Call of Duty game stormed onto PC and consoles, the Medal of Honor series was cranking out gritty, semi-realistic historical military shooters, even signing on Saving Private Ryan-era Steven Spielberg to craft a story for the inaugural entry. A decade-plus and numerous console generations passed, to which the popularity of certain franchises has obviously taken over, but Medal of Honor’s grasp on pragmatism continued to serve it well until the series went on hiatus about five years ago. Airborne marked the franchise’s arrival onto the first generation of HD consoles, and it clearly tried to pull out the stops amid a swarm of competition, opting for tightly-executed WWII-era scale with the series’ signature music powering it. Medal of Honor couldn’t conquer its rivals, but it did offer a bold alternative with Airborne.