There are few games that I have replayed – and then again, and again, and again – as much as I did with Guacamelee!.
Each playthrough emboldened me to become an even stronger, faster, more magical luchadore, but they also revealed new layers to the game’s world. Guacamelee! was brimming with secrets, hidden between the difficulty spikes and its signature atmosphere. That attention to detail only went further in its recent sequel, and luckily I got to hear & write all about it.
For my second longform piece on Engadget, I had the pleasure of talking with the series’ creators, DrinkBox Studios. Guacamelee! 2 became an opportunity for them to revisit a world they loved building in the first place, only to discover how rewarding the creative process could still be. I spoke with the team’s co-founder and producer, Graham Smith, art director, Steph Goulet, and concept lead & animator, Augusto Quijano, to better understand the sequel’s new landscapes, narrative beats, color palette and more.
As delightful as Guacamelee! 2‘s slapstick self-aware tone is, what stuck with me were its quieter moments – and how personal Augusto was in drawing inspiration from his Mexican upbringing. It’s clear that DrinkBox made even more thoughtful design decisions this time around, managing to distinguish the sequel from its already hyper-stylized predecessor along the way.
It’s another deep-dive into another remake…of another classic Playstation series from the mid-to-late 90’s – and it’s on the anniversary of Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy. We might be a year late to the conversation, but we’re just too fond of the orange marsupial to let that stop us.
Originally created by Naughty Dog, the Saturday-cartoon-style platformer made waves in 1996, just as the industry was discovering the 3rd dimension. With its lush art direction, innovative gameplay, expressive characters and irreverent attitude, Crash Bandicoot cemented Naughty Dog as the world-class studio we still know it to be. But it’s Vicarious Visions’ remake that brought Crash to an entirely new generation last June — and to the center of our discussion today.
Not only is Crash’s makeover a piece of modern entertainment, but an important entry into the efforts of game preservation. By adapting & rebuilding the trilogy for modern consoles and players, Vicarious Visions brought a renewed clarity to a notable slice of gaming history. We look at what choices they had to consider, what they refined, what they changed, and what they preserved with an unwavering loyalty.
Being a year removed from the N. Sane Trilogy has its benefits, though. As three-games-in-one, this was no easy topic to digest nor keep to an hour. But our mutual hindsight keeps things sprightly and candid. My partner and guest, Hilary Bovay, is the only other person I know who grew up with a love for this trilogy to match my own. Join us for a myriad of perspectives as we breakdown the classic Crash Bandicoot trilogy and its gorgeously challenging remake.
Additional Credits & Notes:
Hilary Bovay is an incredibly talented photographer from Aquidneck Island, RI, now based out of Cleveland, OH. She has a keen eye for aesthetics & visual storytelling, and her love for the original Crash Bandicoot is all you’ll ever need to know about her taste in video games.
Music in this episode is from the OST’s to Crash Bandicoot and Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, composed by Josh Mancell. The title theme featured at the top of the episode was reproduced by Justin Joyner (Audio Lead at Vicarious Visions).
Polygon graciously allowed me to write this intimate opinion piece for them, which explores my experience playing the long-awaited The Last Guardian and the parallels I drew between it and our bond with animals. It serves as an analysis of the game’s design, as much as it is a personal essay and investigation into the ways we all encounter animals in need.
Here’s an excerpt from the piece:
The Last Guardian doubles as an interactive metaphor for the discovery and rehabilitation of animals in situations of abuse or neglect. For being such a fantastical setting, it plays host to a cautionary tale that is grounded in reality. By offering us an extended glimpse into an abused animal’s perspective, The Last Guardian asks us to empathize: What does it mean to spend time in their environment? How are they a product of it, and how much can they change?