Having taken some time to think about it (20 years) I can say with some confidence that Rez
is my favorite video game.
After my recent PS3 shenanigans a friend had mercy on me and gave me their old PS4, which means that I was finally able to play the upscaled Rez Infinite for the first time. When it comes to gaming, I am nothing if not behind the times. I also picked up the Rez Infinite vinyl soundtrack, which includes two picturedisc LPs, a 7", and a gigantic coffee table book about the making of the game. It is a gorgeous artifact! And the game-development backstory is really interesting. A lot of time and love went into this game.
The look of Rez is just the most cyberpunk thing in the world, and I don't mean that in the "it's got some neon, and maybe a dork in a leather jacket" sense, but in the original Neuromancer phrasing: "lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data like city lights, receding". Objects have their own ghostly rules and often lack physicality. And of course there's the synesthesia aspect of the design: the music is a part of the game, and not in a DDR "you have to tap along with the song" way. The controller vibration is a separate audio channel. It's not testing you on your rhythm; you play the game to the beat not because you lose if you don't, but because it makes sense that way. An aspect of playing this game is that you are also sitting down to bop along to a favorite album. Rez Infinite
is the same game as Rez,
but re-rendered in HD and with some slight
graphical tweaks, and it includes one new level, Area X,
which is absolutely gorgeous. Area X
has no polygons, only self-illuminating particle systems. But it is unfortunately brief, and was clearly a pitch for "please let us make this game" that I presume went nowhere.
Anyway, I played the whole thing through, unlocked literally every secret level (there's some weird
shit in there) and having sucked the marrow from that game, moved on to the sort-of sequel, Child of Eden.
There was no PS4 version of Child of Eden
, so that meant going back down to PS3.
The Child of Eden graphics lean more toward the "nature" levels of Rez than the "cyber" levels. The wireframe sandworms are back, but you're also de-lousing space-whales that, once properly pollinated, bloom into ghost-phoenixes. "BE NOT AFRAID." If you give the mecha-orchid a happy ending, you may be rewarded with an idoru music video. It's all pretty great.
And it's a really good game; I finished it. But it's not as good as Rez for several reasons. First, the soundtrack is... just ok? It's pleasant enough, but less techno and more j-pop, and it just doesn't grab me the way the Rez soundtrack did. Also the integration between the gameplay and the music isn't really there in the same way. But most frustratingly, the difficulty of the game just ramps up way too fast. Rez eased you into the upgrades but this game just kind of throws you off a cliff at around level 3. I almost gave up before completing level 5 ("Journey") because I was just getting sick of it. But I'm glad I pushed through, because level 6 ("Hope") gets fun again: it's clearly an unused, leftover Rez level, a trench run. And the "fire" noise is an 808 handclap.
I will now be accepting recommendations for other PS4 or PS3-compatible games that I should play.
Things I like:
- Trippy visuals.
- Non-twitchy pacing.
- Music that is part of the game.
Things I don't like:
- Being a sniper.
- Anything multiplayer.
- "Talking" to an NPC.
- An overabundance of plot.
- In-game commerce, real or simulated.
Katamari Damacy was a big favorite. There's no synesthetic aspect, but the puzzles are good, the timing is non-twitchy, and it's just so goofy and hilarious. (BTW, the PS4 "Reroll" package of it upscales everything to HD without altering the gameplay).
One notable exception to the above lists is that I loved Portal. There's a lot of plot and exposition in that game, and in some ways it's a shooter, but it's also very puzzle-heavy and you can mostly take your time to solve them, rather than running and twitching and boom now you're dead. The game gives you the space to look around and think.
A friend kept advising me to try Bioshock again, and for the second time I gave up by like, level 2, I guess? The first basement medical facility. I love the look of the game, and I'm interested in hearing the story (anything that dunks so hard on Libertarians can't be all bad) but my experience with the game is: I'm enjoying exploring this weird, spooky environment, and then suddenly some zombie is shooting me from behind, and now I'm dead. After the third time in a row that happens, I realize that this is the opposite of fun and that I have completely lost interest. It's like I'm trying to read a comic book but every now and then it reaches up and smacks me in the face. I said to my friend, who is also a big fan of Cyberpunk 2077:
"Look, the difference is that I like puzzle games that make me feel like I'm tripping balls. Whereas you like shooters where sometimes a chatbot tries to have sex with you."
Both Rez and Child of Eden have a "chill mode" where you can play the whole game but nothing shoots back. All games should have this.
I write screen savers, ok? I want to play games that are screen savers with puzzles in them.
Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.