Review - El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron



Thought I'd write a review for El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron since GB hasn't got a review up yet. Just realized that there are 2 user reviews up already, but another can't do any harm. Just wanted to get the word out on this beautiful game in case any of you missed it.    


'El Shaddai' is ancient Hebrew for 'the word of God'. It is a game where you play the role of a human named Enoch who was so angelic on earth that he got called up to heaven to work as a scribe for God. 
The dilemma that the player-character gets thrown into revolves around seven fallen angels. The story is complex/ambiguous to say the least, but the basic idea in El Shaddai is that God created the world and then 'called it a day'. The angels in heaven had other ideas though and began to get a bit creative with the paintbrush of life, descending to earth to re-create the world in their own image. Indeed, the sin appears to be that the angels formed their own identities separate from God and cut themselves off from heaven. The seven angels built a huge tower with seven floors for each angel's idea of a kind of personal heaven. During this time they mated with humans and created weird offspring that were neither divine or mortal, the Nephilim. Also, they attracted many followers on earth who worshipped the angels. 
God considered the angels' new realities as false and a sin, and threatens to flood the world if the angels do not come back to heaven. This is where Enoch comes in. Enoch, the angelic human, is tasked with bringing back the souls of the seven fallen angels and returning them to God. Of course what this means is killing their material forms.    
El Shaddai is a simple 3D brawler and also a full-on platformer. In fact, the game is very clearly divided equally between these types of gameplay. You journey through the various floors of the tower that the angels created, fighting smaller demons on the way to each angel which is the boss of each floor. The closest reference to the fighting is the original Devil May Cry, but more stripped down and minimal. There's only really one button that you use to fight with (Square or Triangle on the PS3), one mid-air attack, and one special move that is either defensive or evasive in nature. The combat can be considered 'button-mashy', but is varied through 'God's weapons' and a strong emphasis on timing. 
There are 3 weapons in the game; a heavy shield-like smashing weapon that is slow but strong on offense and defence, a bow that is both quite fast and fairly strong, an a strange long-range shooting weapon that is hard to describe but is fast and allows Enoch to dash about. So even though most of the time you're just tapping Square (Or the equivalent), each weapon has different animations for Enoch and feels physically different. Also, there is more detail in the timing. Instead of always tapping Square frequently, you can adjust the rhythm of button presses to have Enoch perform some balletic jump attacks that feed back into the regular combat mode. The main function of this is to break the enemies' guard though. There are times when the enemy blocks and you can't hit him, so by adjusting the timing, it can stun the enemy. 
There are a variety of enemy types that are based around each of God's weapons, and each enemy has an appearance and feeling based on a specific weapon. So you have heavy big monsters (Sheild weapon), light and floaty ones (The long-range weapon), and more regular-looking human types (The bow). Combat throughout the game consists of mixing and matching weapon types to enemies; each has a weakness. 

The other side of the game is the platforming. The way the combat is connected to the jumping is neat and interesting. Usually after several battles, where you’re travelling through the screen, the game transitions into a sidescrolling perspective where there are mostly no enemies. In these sections it is straight up platform game conventions and often feels very Mario-esque (There are even some tributes to various Mario conventions). There is nothing too taxing here, and it’s just as straight-forward as the combat. What is interesting though is that the emphasis on timing and special abilities links both sections of the game, the combat and the jumping. So the skills you learn in combat are directly useful in traversal sections. Also, as each weapon’s special ability has an influence on the way Enoch moves, some weapons make performing tricky jumps easier or more difficult throughout. There’s an emphasis on choice throughout, and picking which ever weapon suits you. 

The environments, the mood, and the art style are by far the most impressive things about the game. Each place that you visit is completely different and so beautifully constructed. They are not easy to describe, and combine so many strange visual effects. The graphics remind me of Killer7, Okami, Ico, Rez, and No More Heroes. It feels like a wonderful combination of those graphical milestones, plus many other non-game elements are that very original. The mood and feeling of the game reminds me a lot of Killer7 mixed with Bayonetta, but the pacing of the experience is much more orderly and simple.

The powerful orchestral scores for the game are stunning, and I have difficulty in describing it. I won’t dwell on either the story or the environments though, as those are the core of the game and the surprise of playing El Shaddai. You really have to experience it for yourself. No one can tell you about it, and trust me; there are some true ‘WTF’ moments in store. 

All things considered, I really enjoyed the game. At first it can feel monontous because you don't get all the weapons straight away and it takes a little time to get a feel for the flow of the experience, but once you get the timing down and understand the weapons and how to use them creatively then it's good clean fun. The combat is simple, but well-built. It's not like in Bayonetta where everything is silky smooth and you can easily interupt any move to begin a new one. A lot of the times the animations for the moves play out till the end, and it requires some forward thinking about whether you're going to dodge, defend or continue attacking once the animation finishes. Also, Enoch does not always auto-target the enemy so controlling him requires a bit more manual input than in the exquisite Bayonetta for example. Or you can just button mash. But it's much more rewarding if you time your button presses because you're working within the limitations of the character rather than blindly bashing buttons. I found the platforming sections to be very enjoyable also, and a lot easier if you work on the timing. 
Don't think that El Shaddai isn't worth playing because it's minimalistic. The beauty of the game is how it fits together as a whole. You don't feel that its lacking anything because there's a strong harmony and balance between gameplay styles, it's well-paced, and the visuals, atmosphere, music and story carry it for the most part. It feels whole; it's all about feeling the aesthetic. However, El Shaddai knows it is a video game. It manages a great balance between being an old-school arcade game and being a beautiful moving painting.    

You can beat the game in about 5 hours but you’ll surely want to play through it again as it's just amazing to see and feel and try to understand the story some more.  

El Shaddai is a rare flower that is delicate, doesn’t bloom for long, but smells and looks gorgeous. 


Share your Metroid memories

I noticed a blog post on Game Informer the other day. It was a reader discussion on memories of Zelda games, for the 25th birthday of that series. Then I thought, well that's all fine and good but it's Metroid's 25th this year too , so it should also have something similar. 
There's also no better time than now to celebrate Metroid. Recently we've had a flood of games that all pay tribute to Metroid. If you think about it, it's really as influencial as the Zelda games, if not more so! The only recent game that I can think of that is directly inspired by Zelda, is Darksiders. Recent Metroid-type games include: Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, Aliens: Infestation, Outland (To some extent), Fez (Said to have a wide-open, inter-connected map), Cave Story, Shadow Complex, Aquaria, Batman: Arkham Asylum, and a TON of Castlevania games. 
So it didn't invent Z-targeting. It hardly matters. Its contributions are just as valid: silent, atmospheric storytelling, non-linear design, seamless combination of action and exploration gameplay, and a general level of elegance and polish that is rarely seen.  

Anyway, share your Metroid memories here. :-) They can be anything from memories of the time, to the actual in-game memories. 
Personally, I first discovered the series through Super Metroid on the SNES. I was at Secondary (High) school and unwittingly borrowed a copy from someone I didn't know so well (Couldn't even really be called a friend of a friend). But I took it home and played for a bit. It didn't really make much of an impression on me. I think at the time I was used to N64 graphics and Playstation. I did recall fond memories of Mario games and Donkey Kong Country games on the Super Nintendo, but for some reason never knew about Metroid and its sheer detail and subtleties were lost on me at the time. I remember my friend came round to see the new game, and he was more interested than I was! He was transfixed. I know I shouldn't of but I lent him the game that I had been lent (But I did eventually give it back!). Eventually my friend bought a copy himself and for years preached about the game and its merits, saying it was his favourite thing. I just kept playing my N64 and eventually Gamecube. Then I got Metroid Prime on import from the US because it got good reviews and I had this souped-up all-region GC with component-type cables that I wanted to use. So with Metroid Prime I experienced the brilliance, the beauty and the elegance of Metroid. It was so involving, exploring lush alien planets and searching for mysterious powers. It captured me at the time. But it was only a few years ago that I really got into Super Metroid. I went back and played it on a whim, and finally understood its genius. The rest is history, and I've been a fan ever since.  

The beauty of Metroid

What makes Metroid so beautiful..?
For years I've been entranced by the beauty and elegance of the Metroid design, but unable to articulate why. There's always been something esoteric and mystical about that world. You're always generally alone, exploring alien terrain and discovering mystical artifacts. Samus is like a detective, searching for clues; working out the puzzle that is the environment that engulfs her. You can never trust your senses in Metroid, as walls often aren't there, or lava turns out to be an illusion, often hiding secret passages and hidden items. There's always a silence to this investigative gameplay that seeps into you and begins talking to you directly. These are some things that are beautiful about Metroid, but I want to explain something more fundamental.

Knowledge is Power

I'm sure most of you have heard the statement, 'Knowledge is power', but what does it mean exactly? Well, it struck me the other day that I could partly sum up the beauty of Metroid using that statement.
There are two parts to a Metroid game: action & exploration. Metroid has always had an emphasis on shoot em' up gameplay and speed of movement, but it's also equally been about exploring new worlds and areas, and searching for hidden things. Each Metroid is balanced differently with regards to these core elements. The first Metroid on the NES had such a huge world that it is more about surviving and searching and less about the sheer destructive power of Samus. The second Metroid on Gameboy focused more on action elements and tasked the player with the complete genocide of the entire Metroid race, yet it still had the enormous and expansive organic world to explore. 
Super Metroid to me, was a perfect blend of action and exploration in a way that felt effortless. The previous Metroids were quite difficult and sparse. Super Metroid on the other hand was much tighter and graphically much more colourful and full of texture and the 16-bit sound was also much more immersive. In Super Metroid there was something new, something slick, something compelling, something haunting. In Metroid Prime, the series returned to its NES roots with emphasis on light platforming and discovering a huge world. Metroid Fusion and Other: M still combine a good balance of both action and exploration, but the way they're combined is more restrained and guided; power gained contextual meanings.
To me, the beauty of Metroid is in how action feeds off exploration and how exploration plays off of the action elements. The items you get from the Chozo aren't really items in the way an item is in Zelda. In Zelda the item is a physical thing that Link takes out and uses, and solves puzzles with spatial reasoning and logic (A boomerang or sword for instance). But in Metroid, Samus absorbs the Chozo (Alien) powers into her suit; it is almost as if she is receiving knowledge from the Gods, knowledge that she uses to locate more knowledge to explore more areas to locate more knowledge, and so on and so on. This is the beauty of the flow of Metroid; the slick, compelling pacing that builds and builds. As knowledge is gained, you always want to know more! Except in Metroid, the statement 'Knowledge is Power' is made literal, thanks to the representations of the visual medium of games. The spider ball can be considered an ability or power-up, allowing Samus to stick to walls in Morph ball form to search new areas. But it is is less about the 'thing', and less about becoming more powerful, than it is about using knowledge as power to gain more experiences. The missiles for example, are primarily used to open doors, and the space jump to reach high up areas. It's power in the service of experience. Metroid is not a power fantasy, and it's not a fantasy about control; it's the lust for knowledge and the passion for experience. And that is powerful! That is beautiful.

Happy 25th Birthday Metroid!

Some people love you. Well, maybe not Nintendo because they haven't bothered to do anything.
Anyway, some musicians have created a free tribute album celebrating the series through the eras. It's fitting as music has always been a strong part of the Metroid experience. 
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Game Informer has the story, and the link to the music. 
Also the Metroid Database has some celebrations of its own, thanks to the passionate fans.
Long live Metroid. :-)

Why Video Games should be presented as Art.

I'll begin by stating that I think the Video/Computer Game medium, as a whole, is already art and has always been art. This is obvious to me, because it's a creative medium with its own language (Especially that of interaction). So my perspective is from the medium and language (Play, Interaction, Rules etc.) itself, not necessarily what the majority of developers are doing with it, or what they call their product. 
Getting to my point though, I really think Games should be presented in Art contexts such as galleries and as public art. I came to this idea because of the current stagnation in creativity in the industry. Games are thriving as an entertainment medium only. I'm sure gamers are mostly happy and content, because there is always entertainment available and they get used to it, and on one level that is fine, but I began to think that the players themselves are also affected by these experiences. Players are evolving their consciousness when they play a game, or experience any art. So with the current industry stagnation, the evolution of player consciousness is not budging beyond the barrel of a gun; beyond a 'them and  us story' of fighting an enemy. Sure, this is entertainment, but is it changing you as a person? 
I don't think things will change any time soon, simply because of the market and because FPSs and cinematic experiences sell. Gamers are also incredibly resistant to change and in my personal experience, kind of willfully ignorant. I don't think gamers want originality (See child of eden & shadow of the damned sales). 
It's not just the market though, or the audience. It's also the developers. Too many developers rely on genre to solve their problems. The language of interaction and choice has been suspended by the conventions of genre - the shooter, the rpg, the platformer etc. How is game design meant to change, and how are gamers meant to change, if they keep experiencing the same thing all the time? The answer is simple from a design perspective: don't rely on genre anymore. Use rules, restraints, choices, and play to create new, compelling narratives. The language of interaction can stand on its own. You don't need a gun all the time. 
Personally I think the only way to radically change the current situation (Or, at least 'diversify') is to:  

1.) Accept games as an art form 
When you play games, you're always experiencing a story and you're interpreting a work. You're feeling emotions, and you're affirming your own identity through the choices you make. That's why I believe they are art, from Pong to God of War.

2.) Change the audience 
Spiritually, games are art. But culturally they are not. Art in culture is a very wide audience, and so if some  designers could present small computer games then the medium would slowly become to be accepted as art and so then I believe that is where the creativity truly begins. 
3.) Change the approach to design 
Innovation will only come if designers are bold enough to create their own personal language using interaction, time, visuals, and  sound. I think it must become personal and individual for the creativity to come. Working in large teams tends to stifile personal vision.  
4.) Change the context 
There could be many different contexts of course. Art contexts offer a very broad audience though, and here I think you will find more open-minded people - some of which don't play games. You would also find pretentious elitists as well, but you have those types in any industry! Even games. I think a lot of game designers are incredibily pretentious and egotistic, concerned only with status. So it's not just an Art thing. 

So that's what I think needs to happen (For radical change).

The Killer


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I happend to come across a small browser game by the name of ' The Killer'. It's really very good, so I recommend it to you guys.
You play the role of some kind of soldier in Cambodia, tasked with the job of killing someone (Maybe a prisoner of war?). The visuals are beautiful, and it's quite emotionally-affecting. The designer also apparently travelled to Cambodia, so the game is based on some historic background.

Made a game


I made a little game in Game Maker. It's very simple, but I wanted to see if I could create an interesting interactive story with a begining, middle and end in the style of those old single-screen arcade games like Space Invaders, where all the action happens in one space. For the visuals I appropriated the graphics of the Atari 2600 classic, Adventure.
In Adventure, probably the first game of its kind, the player embarks on an epic quest to aquire a chalice. You generally explore castles, slay dragons, unlock doors (Yes, unlock doors!), and other things. Those Atari visuals just worked for my game, Invisible Wall, because they're so simple and easy to create, but there is some deeper meaning to the choice. Invisible Wall is about those situations in life where getting something or confronting someone (Or just talking to them) seems simple on the surface...It's right there in front of you, but there is something holding you back that is so powerful that that simple thing seems impossible. So my game subverts the epic hero's quest, as in Adventure.

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I made this mostly to demonstrate how it is perfectly possible to tell stories through play (Through the player). There is also a glitch that I left in there because I thought it could add to the narrative in an interesting way.

Invisible Wall
Added: 01 July 2011
By: just_nonplussed


Metroid: Other M - The good and the bad


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I feel like Other M on the Wii got too much whipping from gamers upon its release, so I would like to balance out some of the things I think it did well, with some of the things it was less successful at. 

What I enjoyed

-The overall direction was very engaging and dynamic. The world is very atmospheric and moody, and makes use of lots of interesting camera angles that change as you move around areas. Also, in cut-scenes, the camera has a very eratic and excited motion as it pans the various characters. 
-Samus looks great. Team Ninja did an amazing job at building her and her power suit. She moves elegantly and with believable weight. I also appreciate the designers highlighting her softer side and making her come across as child-like and emotionally sensitive. It's suprising, but shows her human side underneath the power suit. And hey, she & the player still gets the job done. 
-The world design and general gameplay felt very fast and energetic. Other M brought back the speed of Super Metroid (And the other sidescrollers) that was missing from the Prime games. It's an incredible achievement that the world felt fully 3D and secure, but player movement was as tight and as fast as in the 2D games. 
-There were some very interesting ways that the player was able to uncover clues about what was happening in the abandoned space station. I enjoyed the way the game shifted player action and combat seamlessly into environmental investigation, and then fed that back into combat. For example, the part in the story where Samus has to detect a robot 'Zebesian', report it to the other team members, and then come back to make further investigations - and then just before leaving she gets ambushed by the enemies that leads into another fight. I wish there were more moments like these. 
-Some great boss fights that were very dramatic. Especially the encounters with Ridley. 

What I didn't

-Generally, too much combat. Too much padding. The arena-based fights felt out of place for a Metroid game. The combat also felt a little too easy and simple. But then again, the combat felt good because it was simple. It's a difficult point to get across...How the combat felt perfect, but at times incidental and effortless.
-Some of the cut-scenes were difficult to watch a second time and perhaps went on too long. It's odd for a Metroid game to rely so much on cut-scenes.
-The game world didn't feel big enough. Metroid works better with a huge world because with so many abilities it takes time to experiment with those tools.
-Item pick-ups felt slightly uneccessary/superfluous this time around. There's no need to divide energy tanks into 4 'energy parts'. There should have been better ways to encourage exploration of the environment, or some other ways that Samus can power up besides through item-collection. It felt too 'gamey' for the cinematic experience Nintendo were going for. 
-The music and sound felt muted and un-defined.
-The controls took a lot of getting used to, due to the peculiarities of the wii interface. It was very much a compromise, and so the learning curve was steep. However, I maintain that when you get used to it the controls are fine...It's just that when you're just getting into the swing of things, the game is over.


I think Nintendo has a great framework in Other M to make a bigger and better Metroid next time. But overall the experience of this game is not very satisfactory for a long-term Metroid fan; not necessarily because it doesn't feel like Metroid, but because it relies too much on repeated enemy battles and arena-based combat, and lacks the explorative depth and environmental detail of the Prime games.  
Other M is such a unique experience though, and has a lot of promise for the next game in the series. I think Nintendo are just getting warmed up here.

full review

Good storytelling in games

Just thought I would write a little bit about some video games that I think have effective ways of immersing me as a player into the story. It's not a huge essay or anything, but I felt a need to mention these games.

Mirror's Edge

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Firstly, there's just something about the first-person viewpoint that really puts me into the game experience. Maybe it is because life is played in first-person. :-) Not all games that are first-person naturally succeed at this though. The character model of Faith in Mirror's Edge is built well enough that it feels like she is all there, even if you don't see most of her. Running feels quite natural and the connection between player and character feels solid. Mostly what I like about ME is how engaged in the story you are, right from the begining. There are some weird guys after you and you are running. That's all there is too it, but the fear of getting caught and shot is so strong that I can't get past the fourth area. I find it a terrifying experience. Mirror's Edge is great because it manages pretty successfully to dissolve any barrier between its game and story elements. It's a shame then that it's too difficult (And fiddly, control-wise) for me to play. 

Metroid: Other M

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I know this game got a lot of complaints from gamers about the content of its story, and the interface/controls, um, and the level design, but I really think it does a fantastic job at immersing me into the character of samus and into the world she is in. Other M is so dramatic and intense that I felt things were happening around me in real-time. I guess this is mostly direction, which it is great at. What makes the direction stick is the character of Adam who gives you orders from his computer room base, and authorizes 'updates' to your power suit. I felt like there was a clear dialogue between me and the game; this was a mission of restraint and surgical observation. You're clearly in a dangerous situation and the game communicates that immediacy very well. What I love is that this is Metroid game that dares to be different, and plays on Samus/the player's history of being a sort of rogue agent that can go anywhere and has little to no responsibility. Funny how most gamers simply threw their toys out of the pram.


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I'm not going to say much about this, but the world design is just fantastic. The environment tells me as the player, so much. The audio logs were a fantastic way of conveying background information that felt part of the world. The twist in the story at the end was amazing, not just because of the twist itself but how I as a player was implicated - without feeling as if there was any distinction between myself and the character. It's just a shame that I found the moral choice system to be flawed and uncompelling.

Noby Noby Boy

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This is a brilliant little sandbox world, and my favourite to date. I felt really connected to BOY, a massive wiggly worm. BOY appears to be an alien life form from far far away, and you basically spend most of the game invading other planets and going on massive trolling sessions in a quest to derail civilization. I just spent ages exploring and testing things out in the world. 

Animal Crossing

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It's a simple set-up. You're moving away to a new life and everything is going to be fine and dandy, until you actually get there and realize you're in a lot of debt and have to run around doing chores for people. However, the main reason I love this game is how much depth there is to customizing your house. I'm amazed at how people have been able to make their villages feel so individual. This is the player creating their own world, and contrasts with a game like Mirror's Edge where you take on the role of a character.

So those are just a variety of games that I think successfully merged story with gameplay in a way I felt comfortable with and enjoyed.

The difference between narrative, and play (Or play + rules)

In response to an on-going dialogue between myself and others on this site, on the way video games tell stories, this blog will attempt to come to some kind of a conclusion on some contested points. These points of contention revolve around the meaning of the term narrative, or story. To avoid falling into an abyss (Although that sounds like terrific fun), I will be using the Atari 2600 game, Kaboom! to illustrate my point clearly and to keep 'on topic'.

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Kaboom! is a single-screen arcade-type game from the 80s. You move a 'bucket' (A single bucket that contains 3 segments, or sub-buckets) that acts in the same way as a paddle from Breakout or Pong (You can only move left and right). So you are represented in the game space by the bucket. I'm using the term bucket loosely, because it's simpler than saying bomb diffuser. So here comes the story. There's a 'mad bomber' and he is intent on bombing 'stuff' up; he also appears to be convict/terrorist. Not much more official information is given, except that your role within the game space is to diffuse his bombs and stop the threat. The way Kaboom! is balanced though makes this plot almost unresolvable/impossible. This is because the better you are at your job, as this bomb diffusion expert, the faster the bomber gets (You could say he becomes more violent, more efficient, or more eratic). There are other nuances, in the gameplay, but they can't be said to significantly affect the drama or conclusion of the story. You just can't win. Interestingly In 2011, it's a topical game to fire up...But let's move on now to discussing rules & play, and then I will make some comparissons.
The rules are strict in Kaboom!. It's a very tightly balanced game, and unique in its design. Usually the player has a way of fighting back (A laser for example, as in Space Invaders, or most any other game) even if the odds are stacked against them, but in Kaboom! you have no method of force; your every move is controlled by patterns of bombs as they flow down the screen until you enter a kind of hypnotic daze. In my experience, I think it's the video game that puts the player in the weakest possible position with barely any choice for deviation. Most games are about being a super soldier where you have god-like powers and abilities, but Kaboom! is about submission and domination. This isn't just a story, it's a relationship between the game and the player. You yourself are being controlled, hypnotized and dominated whether this process is fun or not fun.
In the above two paragraphs I've clearly made distinctions between the story (Inclusive of gameplay and the player) and then I've isolated just the rules & play. However, in my view there are two different stories going on here. There is the story of the game creator who has put these rules; these bindings, on your consciousness through the act of play, and then there is the Mad Bomber Vs. the bomb diffuser. The former is an agreement or relationship between two people via a computer system. The latter is an interactive narrative. But I contest that the former is also a valid narrative. It is valid because it shapes consciousness, has an emotional effect and leaves a memory in the mind of the player. Of course, the Mad bomber Vs. the bomb diffuser story (Inclusive of the involvement of the player as a character in the story) may also leave a memory and an emotional response, but it would be in the context of the explicit narrative (i.e What the back of the box says and what the relation of graphical images say).   
I personally think that there is no room in the Mad Bomber Vs. the bomb diffuser story for submissive consciousness and brutal domination. These ideas and feelings arise in me due to the constraints of the system on my mind, not as the result of the explicit, 'official' narrative. Furthermore, If Kaboom! were to be made in 2011 without the awareness of the 80s version of Kaboom!, it would not be balanced like it is and would most probably be something that tries to be realistic like Kayne & Lynch or Medal of Honor. I haven't played either of those games but I can bet they have resolutions to their respective narratives, and I can bet they are not about being submissive or controlled (Either in a gameplay sense or in a story premise/pretext sense).
I hope this blog has established and shed light on the contention points (And attempted to resolve them) in the dialogue I was having with various people on the site through thread posts. :-) And I also hope it brings others into the discussion who haven't thought about this much before.
As an interesting point to finish on, in order to turn the 'implicit narrative' into the 'explicit narrative', could you imagine the current symbols changing to represent this? Lol.
Actually, I don't like the term 'implicit/explicit' because it suggests a rivalry (In which the implicit is subordinate). The story between game designer and game player is real, in spite of/because of/in parallel to the video game narrative that is presented to you at face value. 
EDIT: As an observation though, in order for there not to be this 'narrative split' in Kaboom, I think the game should not get faster. The Mad Bomber should just destroy you and the game would end rather quickly. You could argue that the story is 'abstract' but I don't think it was intended to be so. 
based on previous discussion: 
storytelling in video games
more narrative-centric games
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