What to read and watch before you play the Tony Hawk remake
And wait a moment, is the Avengers game actually good?
[Hi, I’m Chris Plante, and you’re reading Postgame, a weekly newsletter collecting the best games, stories, and videos in the video game community into a fun, digestible package on Wednesday and Sunday mornings. Learn more on the Postgame About page. Postgame is edited by Stephie Grob Plante. Want to support Postgame? Please share it with a friend! Or even better, visit my work-home at Polygon.com!]
A shortlist of things to know before you play the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater remake:
Last month Activision released a recreation of the most excellent video game demo of all time: 2 minutes of free skating in the iconic “Warehouse” level. Sadly, you needed a pre-order (or a Chipotle voucher) to play.
For the remake, the developers have let the skaters look their actual age in-game, using recent digital scans of their faces.
Tony Hawk and Co. renamed the game’s “mute grab” the “Wheedle grab,” scrapping the insensitive original term and paying respect to the trick’s creator.
Earlier this summer, Tony Hawk gave my friends at Vox a tour of his most iconic spots.
The remake features a bunch of new, young skaters, including Leo Baker, the first non-binary skater to appear in the series.
As Activision considers the future of the series (and follows this new class of skaters), it should probably shift its aesthetic from the VHS skate video to the TikTok skate reel.
The game is “oh they spent some money on this” levels of pretty. See below:
The end of a perfect, little game studio
Vlambeer is no more. On the studio’s 10th-anniversary, Rami Ismail and Jan Willem Nijman dissolved their collaboration.
The studio had one of the best five-year runs in the history of indie games, releasing Super Crate Box, Ridiculous Fishing, Luftrausers, Nuclear Throne, and a handful of other titles between 2010 and 2015.
We haven’t seen a new Vlambeer game since the mid-’10s. Their final game, Ultrabugs, is still in development and won’t be impacted by the breakup.
Ismail and Nijman will continue to make stuff, just with new collaborators. JW recently co-created the delightful time-bending adventure Minit with Kitty Calis, Jukio Kallio, and Dominik Johann.
Strange days at the old guard
IGN China has returned, this time as a partnership between IGN and video game publisher Tencent. According to a report on gamesindustry.biz, “IGN China will be editorially independent from the rest of the Tencent Group. This is no doubt to assure there will be no bias given the stakes Tencent has in multiple major games firms.”
IGN’s business model has spread the brand across a staggering 29 international divisions, making it a turnkey solution for marketers who hope to make a big, simultaneous announcement across the world. An outpost in China will presumably be beneficial to IGN’s entertainment division, as China becomes increasingly influential in both producing and distributing films.
IGN wasn’t the only old guard publication in the news for unusual partnerships: on Tuesday, GameSpot tweeted a custom promotional video for the National Guard, along with a link to the Guard’s website.
The tweet was immediately criticized by dozens of people on Twitter — including some of the company’s editorial employees — for advertising National Guard enrollment to children.
Waypoint Radio co-host and critic Austin Walker had a spot-on take: “This is not only gross on its own merit, but it’s also a disgusting betrayal of the content teams who have worked exceptionally hard, especially over this past year, to make GameSpot a brand worth advertising with in the first place.”
This partnership is almost certainly the result of a sales and/or biz dev team being out of touch with the moment and the audience. In July, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) proposed an amendment that would ban the US military from recruiting on Twitch. The vote failed in the House, but received considerable attention and support online.
Five games to play
After a disastrous E3 2019 reveal and a befuddling marketing campaign, Marvel’s Avengers has been getting pretty okay reviews. I’ve played the first couple hours of the campaign, and: It’s charming! Plus, it looks great. The final art is a significant improvement from that early demonstration and its “like the movies but not” character designs.
“The full game opens with a very young Kamala Khan, who’s not yet gained her Ms. Marvel stretchy powers, attending the A-Day celebration in San Francisco with her father. She’s part of a group of kids who won a trip in an Avengers fan-fiction contest, which is very on-brand for Kamala.” (Mike Fahey, Kotaku)
“Every looter struggles in the early days, and it would be naive [to] think a studio that’s never made a game of this type before would nail it right out of the gate. That being said, it’s already in way better shape than I ever expected it to be at launch, and, most critically, the combat — particularly in multiplayer — is an absolute blast. I’m hopeful, and I’ll be sticking around to see where things go from here.” (Eric Switzer, TheGamer)
Marvel’s Avengers is available on PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Stadia.
Are we seeing formerly “niche” genres go mainstream because fans and critics alike have more time at home during the pandemic to try new things? Or perhaps because these games are available on Xbox Game Pass?
“You are once again the head of an early medieval dynasty, and you’ll try to keep it trucking for as long as you can by click, click, clicking on its elaborate map and stacks of menus. Your tools are diplomacy, intrigue, warfare and luck, and your goals are whatever whims your mind conjures up.” (Fraser Brown, PCGamer)
“During one playthrough, I successfully waged a war against a neighbor only to spawn a second conflict for the same territory within my own dynasty. Often, the only way to prevent one good scheme from going sideways is to hatch two or three bad ones, and dealing with the fallout from your own evil actions is more than half the fun.” (Charlie Hall, Polygon)
“This is a game for people who are nerds about people, and why they act the way they do.” (Gita Jackson, Vice)
Crusader Kings III is available on Steam and Xbox Game Pass PC.
“Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2 joins a proud tradition of Activision selling us the same game in the same series multiple times; it’s the third attempt at remixing and re-releasing some version of this content, after Tony Hawk 2X on the original Xbox in 2001 and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD in 2012. But this is the first time anyone has been able to do it right in the past decade or so.” (Ben Kuchera, Polygon)
“THPS1+2 both honors the legacy of the original games and updates it in smart ways. What made those first games so special is the care and attention they put into representing skate culture, whether it was the music, the clothing, or the gameplay itself. That’s all intact here, with all of the modern upgrades you’d expect, from realistic visuals to new music to online support.” (Andrew Webster, The Verge)
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 is available on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
“Raji’s a shortish game but a very rich one - the sheer scale of environments and the sense of adventure is properly intoxicating. More than anything I was left with gratitude: this game gave me a window into another culture and I want to know more.” (Christian Donlan, Eurogamer)
Raji: An Ancient Epic is available on Switch, and will hit PC, Xbox One, and PS4 later this fall.
I haven’t had a chance to play this just yet, but I’m digging the Steam synopsis:
“Paradise Island, a world outside reality. There’s been a murder that only ‘investigation freak’ Lady Love Dies can solve. Gather evidence and interrogate suspects in this open world adventure. You can accuse anyone, but you’ll have to prove your case in trial to convict. It’s up to you to decide who’s guilty.”
Paradise Killer is available on PC and Switch.
Three videos to watch
Spot the difference: flight simulator edition
I can’t tell you what this game is, but I’d like to play it ASAP.
What if… Digimon had beaten Pokémon?
Four stories to read
A contradiction: Social games seem to be getting more asocial. (Henry Ewins, Uppercut)
On Tuesday, NVIDIA announced a trio of graphics cards, ranging from $500 to $1500. The event managed to do something Sony and Microsoft have struggled to accomplish with their new consoles: It showed the hardware, flaunted graphics, and provided a release window and pricing. NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang hosted the event from his kitchen, at one point pulling a humongous graphics card from his oven. We used to count on new generations of consoles for seismic shifts in video game visuals, but now that responsibility belongs almost entirely to PCs. (Seth Schiesel, Protocol)
A lovely review of a terrifying game. (Kaile Hultner, No Escape)
Before bed, I’ve been devouring Maria Dahvana Headley’s bro-speak translation of Beowulf. Naturally, I enjoyed this essay that draws a line between the book and Tim Rogers’s fresh localization of the Japanese PS1 classic, moon. (Drew Messinger-Michaels, Everybody’s Talking at Once)
The best of the rest
A partnership with a Saudi Arabian planned city project has esports experts wondering how the industry will balance its ethics and economics. (Ewan Morgan, The Washington Post)
Control doesn’t answer its biggest questions, favoring mystery over closure. Thank goodness. (Cameron Kunzelman, Kotaku)
The creators of Wholesome Games explain their warm-hearted method of curation. (Rebekah Valentine, Gamesindustry.biz)
If we no longer have load screens, will video games have the ability to “cut” like films? And what would that mean for the craft? (Jefferson Toal, Fanbyte)
My friends launched a new website called Secret Base. It includes the creators of such internet brilliance as Breaking Madden, Rewinder, Fumble Dimension, and more. The site has big-time “hanging out with my friends in a GeoCities webring” energy. (Secret Base)
Remember the carved totems in Dishonored? It turns out that 2,500-year-old figurines exist IRL and they’re dedicated to a seafaring cult. (Joshua Rapp Learn, The New York Times)
I’ve really enjoyed the recent weeks of Colbert. Emily VanDerWerff unpacks why the show works so well within our moment. (Emily VanDerWerff, Vox)
Speaking of quarantine icons: January Jones. (Rachel Syme, The New Yorker)
The death of laugh tracks. (Drew Gooden, YouTube)
The 20 best “bottle” episodes of TV. (Staff, The Ringer)
A full-length documentary about Disneyland’s forgotten sci-fi rock band. (Defunctland, YouTube)
“Dungeons & Dragons TikTok is Gen Z at its most wholesome.” (Cecilia D’Anastasio, Wired)
Sports are good.
Sports are very, very good.
But what do you think?
Send links, tips, comments, questions, games, and good-bad tattoos to @plante.
That’s a wrap. See y’all next Sunday. Wear a mask!