Sunday, 3 March 2019

Video Games Featuring Black Protagonists (Part 4)

Here is in fact the list of games I missed in the first three articles. Some are unknown indie games that were hard to notice at first, while other released after I already wrote them, of course, in alphabetical order. What started as a curiosity mining, turned out to be a journey and discovery of characters and games I never even heard of. I definitely want to play some and other I might not want to ever touch again. Just like any games featuring all types of characters, the skin color of a character doesn't really make or break a story, except when culture or beliefs are involved. And I shall start with exactly one that makes a point out of culture and belief. Well, there's no further ado. We've set the rules before, there's not much to say but have fun and here are more game in which you can play as a black character:

Assassin's Creed: Origins
Bayek of Siwa is the protagonist of the Assassin's Creed game that goes back to the roots of the Brotherhood, the Hidden Ones. He is a Medjay, the protector of his hometown and its people, until his son is killed and turns into a vengeful assassin. This installment in the popular franchise takes players to the ancient Egypt in a time when Romans took over the land and vandalized its culture.
Bayek is one of the most interesting characters of the series, but also equally interesting is his wife and partner in crime, Aya. The modern day is very underplayed, so the game has a lot more focus on the story arch of these two characters and their revenge plan. Of course, we get to also meet renditions of famous names of that time, such as Cleopatra and Cezar, and the game also takes a small detour to Rome. Overall, a great game with fun characters, an interesting story and beautiful locations, but also an improved combat. Only negative thing I can say about it is that some of its numerous side-missions get really derivative and repetitive.

Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan
Aurion is a successfully crowdfunded game made by a small studio of game developers from Cameroon named Kiro'o Games, also having the bragging rights of being the first video games development studio in Central Africa. Their main inspiration being African mythology and culture, they envisioned a world in which Auriona is a place untouched by colonization, but also a place in which real world history and fantasy collide. Players take control of Enzo Kori-Odan, heir to the throne of Zama, in his quest to take back his place as ruler from his tyrannic brother-in-law. His adventures takes him through diverse countries in attempt to find allies. The game plays from a side-scrolling 2.5D perspective, with beautiful hand drawn graphics and fluid animations. It also spawned a series of comic books and received quite good praise from reviewers.

Bad Boys: Miami Takedown
Also known as Bad Boys II in Europe, it is obviously the video game adaptation of the Martin Lawrence and Will Smith sequel movie, Bad Boys II. The player alternatively takes control of the two main protagonists, Marcus Burnett and Mike Lowrey, through each of the five levels of the game as they land smack between the street war between two cartels when a drug deal goes south. It's a simple, linear story and gameplay tries its best to keep the player invested. With awkward controls and a buggy cover mechanic, it is obvious the game was trying to cash in on a popular IP before it goes cold. It failed both critically as well as commercially. Just watch the movies.

In Brigador, the story is a vessel for destruction, gameplay-wise, but that doesn't mean it isn't deep. There's a lot to discover, but there aren't voice-overs or convoluted character arches. No, pick a face with a name (and a light implied description) and go on a rampage in the war-torn nation Solo Nobre, which is far from Earth on a colonized planet. These are mech pilots from different faction, evidently fighting each-other and you, the player, get to fight from every side of the battle. So, of these 35 characters there are a few black guys and gals too, most notably the face on the cover you most likely didn't miss, Modesto Pires, who's only ambition is... well, the same as yours: survive. He's the character you play as in the first chapter of the game. Tear through the streets of Solo Nobre in an isometric perspective gameplay reminiscent of Future Cop: LAPD and with the synth soundtrack accompanying it for good measure. It's a ton of fun game.

Developed by Brazilian studio Long Hat House, Dandara is a 2D sci-fi platformer with the twist being that you traverse the levels by warping on specific surfaces. The eponymous character is based on real Brazilian hero, Dandara, who fought enslavement alongside a settlement of Afro-Brazilian people. The developers gave Dandara the same characteristics as those little known about the real life legend: a mysterious, a fearless warrior. While reviews were generally mixed, Dandara was better received on the mobile market, even getting a well-deserved DICE award.

Desert Child
In Desert Child's very aesthetic game world reminiscent of 80's pixel art, you can take control of an unnamed but very ambitious young man who desperately wants to escape Earth in favor of Mars. And he only has a few days to do that. Meanwhile, rent needs be paid, gotta eat too, and make money taking odd jobs. Thankfully, he can rely on his trusty hover bike. Compete in violent races, hunt bounties, deliver... stuff. Do what it takes. The character might not have a name, but his personality is what sells you on his struggle, although maybe a bit too leaned back for the premise.

Dishonored: Death of the Outsider
As a stand-alone expansion of Dishonored 2, Death of the Outsider puts players in the shoes of Billie Lurk as she's trying to find her mentor Daud, who's on a obsessive quest to kill the Outsider. The gameplay is very similar to both Dishonored and Dishonored 2, with only minor changes to how abilities work and a few new tools, minus the chaos system. The most fun you can have is using the new Semblance ability (which disguises Billie as any character you choose in the game) and using it with unique characters while trying to interact with other unique characters. As for the main face, Billie Lurk talks a lot about her gruesome childhood, but as the mean assassin in the game she is a strong-headed, no-nonsense character who sets a goal and makes it done.

Fahrenheit – Indigo Prophecy
Before Quantic Dream dedicated their work exclusively to making interactive movies with the cheesiness ramped up to eleven, and some time after that game they made in which you had complete control over your character and actions (Omikron: The Nomad Soul), there was this underrated gem that started the madness. Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy begins as a psychological thriller with conspiracies and some kind of black magic involved. You realize after a while that you're playing through one of David Cage's fever dreams, with spirit aliens and Matrix-style superpowers. The game changes characters during specific chapters, the main focus being on Lucas Kane, but you'll also play as his brother Marcus. The characters I want to focus on here are Lieutenant Carla Valenti and Sergeant Tyler Miles, both Afro-Americans and yes... they both have intercourse in the game. It's still a David Cage fantasy. Carla is the more interesting character, being the second most featured. I can't say much without spoiling, but she's just the classic police officer who wants to do the good thing, but trusts people way too easily. So a Quantic Dream cliché.

Ghostbusters (2016)
No, not the “critically acclaimed” movie. I'm talking about its top-down twin stick shooter video game spin-of, simply titled Ghostbusters. They could've subtitled it, since the main characters from the movie are just briefly mentioned in a cutscene and we get to play as one of the four available characters: two male and two female. They do not have names, but personalities can be distinguished in the rare cutscenes we get and some banter. One of the ladies is a black slim woman with glasses because she's smart and strong and uses phrases such as “supernatural HERstory”. Yeah... Fortunately there's not much of that, since the game barely lasts 6 hours and it's a drag as it is. It was completely destroyed by critics and players alike, gaining the title of worst game of 2016.

Injustice 2
Just like in Gods Among Us, Injustice 2 features a very strong story mode in which it lets players take control of certain characters at various points in the story, or within chapters. While Batman is still the main honcho of the League, Cyborg gets to kick ass in one chapter alongside Catwoman. One of their foes is none other than Grid, a meaner version of Cyborg. One of the main selling points of Injustice 2 and a major feature over the previous installment is the Gear System, a loot system that gives the players the ability to customize their characters with armor pieces that also change their stats. An awesome way to give the game a sense of role-playing. On the downside, the game also has tons of microtransactions. But enough of that. This is about Cyborg and Cyborg is awesome as always.

Marc Eckō's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure
I don't know who Marc Eckō is, but his game is actually pretty good. The story follows graffiti artist Trane as he runs away from home to become the ultimate graffiti spray painter. The trouble is that the dystopian city of New Radius has its fill of graffiti artist who won't take kindly to intruders. On top of that, as Trane gains notoriety he also gains the attention of a major gang, but also of a militaristic force called CCK that aims to control the city and its inhabitants. The gameplay consists of sneaking around, tagging walls, level traversal, tagging cars and more walls, and occasional beat 'em ups in which Trane uses some impressive kung fu skills. The level design is mostly linear, with side-mission paths and optional objectives, so kinda semi-open world. New Radius is supposed to be an Orwellian setting, but it feels just as lived in as any other game set in a New York rendition during nighttime. It's a great game with a fun character to follow, it's been re-released on Steam and should still be a blast to play.

Bébé's Kids
Based on a animated movie that was in turn based on one of comedian's Robin Harris routine, this 1994 SNES side-scroller features two of the characters from the cartoon, LaShawn and Kahlil, as they wreak havoc in the Fun Land amusement park. Each character has their own special attacks, but the enemies are hit sponges and the game drags too much in very samey levels, with the odd change of gameplay here and there. It's not as funny as the movie it's based on, you don't even get much context, you're just thrown into the level and fight themed enemies. There are better games on the Super NES.

Odysseus Kosmos and his Robot Quest
This four episode adventure game with a pixel art style is charming, funny and a joy of puzzle bonanza. Odysseus Kosmos, the titular character, finds himself the only living crew member of space ship and science vessel San-Francisco. Well, there's also the quirky, smart-mouth robot Barton Quest who seems to be hiding something. It's such a fun game in the veins of old point and click games that will most likely make you nostalgic and eager to play some Tex Murphy again. And if you've never played them, well, what are you waiting for?

The Walking Dead: The Final Season
A muddled release for Telltale's last release. Their best and most successful series ended in a sad controversy after Telltale decided to abruptly shut their business down. The hints were all over the place, taking on high profile IPs like Batman and Guardians of the Galaxy, while gambling with dumb projects like Minecraft Story Mode and using the same old formula and the same old engine. Also, firing a bunch of people out of the blue might've been a clue for things to come.
Anyway, on to the game. The fourth and final season of The Walking Dead adventure game puts players back in control of Clementine some years after the events of A New Frontier. She takes care of Alvin remembering what Lee taught her and struggling to survive in the zombie infested world. Clem is a bright, strong teenage girl who managed to become one of the best female characters in video games only for Telltale to ruin the franchise with dumb decisions. This season might not even have been finished if not for fan backlash. But finished it is and unfortunately this might be the last we get the chance to play as Clementine.

So that was about all I could find. I kept holding back this last part in hopes that I might find something else I missed, but so far this is it. I hope for all who wanted to find video game stories that puts the players in the shoes of a black character to have found something relatable and enjoyable here. I will also link to the other lists bellow and if anyone has any other suggestions or want to point out a flaw, something I missed or simply discuss please leave a comment. Thank you and keep this blog in your following list. Have a nice one and stay tuned!


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