Double Agents Add Twists and Treachery to Our Favorite Games


Double Agents Alekhine's Gun
Though Agent Alekhine is employed by the CIA in Alekhine’s Gun, he’s still seen as a double agent for his past with the KGB.

Double agents are a common feature of spy stories, making us question where each character’s loyalties lie. Though they’re often antagonistic, double agents are also captivating, driving some of our favorite video game plots into a world of confusion and suspicion. Whether you’re up against them or fighting at their side, these are a few of gaming’s best double agents.

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Video Game Art Styles Combine Aesthetics and Atmosphere for Exceptional Environments

Alekhine's Gun's game art styles include bright, colorful elements and dark, shadowy scenes.
Alekhine’s Gun looks unique for a stealth game because it doesn’t shy away from color–but that color doesn’t lessen the atmosphere of paranoia and suspicion.

Game art styles can be used to great effect, complementing or contrasting a game’s mechanics and narrative to create a more vivid overall experience. As a player, it’s easy to get caught up in realism and high definition graphics as a sign of visual superiority, but low-key game art styles can also add unanticipated elements to atmosphere, mechanics, or story.

What makes a good art style is not just whether it faithfully represents reality, how pretty its coloring is, or how many polygons make up each object. It’s how well that particular style suits the game—though classic games didn’t have the graphic capability we have today, their art style is still a large part of appreciating them. Below are three games that have particularly unique styles that are a mix of aesthetics and purpose, exemplifying that great video game art doesn’t all have to look one way.

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Stealth Combat Takes Planning, Creativity, and Solid Mechanics

Stealth Combat in Alekhine's Gun
By making stealth combat a priority, Alekhine’s Gun ensures that fans who take the stealth approach will find the mechanics satisfying.

Stealth combat uses different skills than the average video game, prioritizing patience and strategy over hacking, slashing, and blasting away enemies. But few games rely entirely on stealth to drive them, instead offering alternative approaches for players who aren’t experienced stealth masters or for people who just like a bit of variety. While some games have an instant fail state for being discovered, most launch you into combat instead.

So how can games make stealth combat enticing when outright combat is generally more straightforward?

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Popular Elements of the Best Puzzle Games

Best Puzzle Games
Alekhine’s Gun isn’t a puzzle game in the traditional sense, but each challenge is presented as a test of both skill and logic.

The best puzzle games are memorable not because they frustrate us to the point of quitting, but because of the satisfaction of completing them. Creating an in-game puzzle is not just about making something that challenges the player—without an element of achievement and learning, puzzles become roadblocks rather than tests of skill or perseverance.

With a good puzzle, players should feel tested but not tricked, and completing a puzzle should be a learning experience rather than something you have to guess blindly. So how do the best puzzle games achieve this balance?

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Creating the Best Video Game Villains with Mystery and Motive

Video Game Villains
Villains in Alekhine’s Gun are embroiled in an anti-government conspiracy, making them shadowy, suspicious characters.

Video game villains are made more memorable by being baddies we take down ourselves. There’s nothing quite like defeating an enemy who has plagued you for the course of an entire game, mixing the drive of the protagonist with your own to make the antagonist’s defeat all the more satisfying.

A challenge can be fun without great characterization, but the best video game villains are intriguing, complex, and just dastardly enough to be worth defeating. Our favorite enemies are those that go beyond the cardboard, mustache-twirling stereotype, bringing unique elements and backstory to their villainy.

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How the Best Video Game Stories Keep Players Intrigued

Best Video Game Stories
Many of the best video game stories use uncertainty and suspense to keep the player intrigued, as Alekhine’s Gun does.

The best video game stories can stick with us forever. Games that we played when we were young can still have an impact on how we think of stories, particularly due to their interactive nature. Though everybody likes something a little different in their games, there are still some key elements that typically make up the best video game stories.

What makes a good story isn’t the same across all media, but many elements are consistent across the board. In games, those elements must integrate seamlessly with gameplay. A story alone isn’t enough, if the gameplay is lacking; games can function with a bare-bones story, but the best are a seamless blend of both narrative and gameplay.

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How Video Game Deaths Can Be More than a Simple Mechanic

Video Game Deaths
Video game deaths have meaning in Alekhine’s Gun, as killing enemies can cause problems for the player if left in plain sight.

Video game deaths are usually a symbol of failure—if you’ve died, you’ve probably done something wrong. And when it comes to enemies, death means you’ve overcome a challenge. With most games now allowing for frequent saves and reloads, however, the gravity of these lessons has lost its weight, and the sting of deaths has lessened.

That’s not true for every game, though. Developers can be as daring with video game deaths as they are with any other mechanic, giving more power to each death or making it feel less important, depending on what suits the gameplay best. Video game deaths can be powerful, helping shape the story, gameplay, and atmosphere, depending on how they’re implemented. Continue reading

Open Level vs. Open World Games: Smaller Zones Suit Some Gaming Genres Better

Open World
The tension and apprehension of Alekhine’s Gun wouldn’t work as well in an open world, where freedom of movement trumps confined quarters.

Open world games are some of the most popular of the moment. Games that weren’t open world before are getting in on the trend, creating worlds that can be explored at the player’s leisure rather than funneling them along through a storyline. Despite the popularity and prevalence of the trend, that doesn’t mean it’s right for every game—using open level design instead of true open worlds can have much of the same effect but while still giving some drive to a main plotline.

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