A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Strafe is a downloadble first-person shooter. Players take control of a faceless, nameless grunt trying to survive an onslaught of bloodthirsty alien hordes on the spaceship Icarus. While there's a simple control scheme, the steep difficulty can frustrate even the hardcore shooter fan. Additionally, there's no objectionable content, apart from the geysers of blood that erupt from enemies when shot. While combat is the main focus of the game, the gore is cartoonishly presented.
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What's it about?
In STRAFE, you play a scrapper sent into recycling facilities to collect junk. After a short training video, you're told your very exciting mission is to go to the edges of space to join the spacecraft Icarus and collect its scrap. But when you arrive on that ship, you find it's become overtaken by blood-thirsty monsters and alien creatures. While still collecting trash (which serves as a currency to buy power-ups and health), you have to survive and blast away the other enemies.
Is it any good?
Given the rise of games with randomly generated levels, it's a surprise that more don't have sheer amount of issues Strafe has. Not that this is a broken game by any means, but it has a lot of unfair problems. Each session starts the same: You pick one of three weapons, dive into the teleporter, and begin to make your way running and gunning through levels full of enemies. But the hiccups even start there, as you can randomly stumble into an issue where the levels themselves wouldn't load. Even when you do land in a level, the chances of being able to survive and progress is, well, random.
A lot of this, surprisingly, has to do with the game's adherence to and great love for the old '90s graphics. In making such a great effort to make the game look old, the developers have forgotten things like how Doom and Quake also gave players a lot of audio clues -- the ability to hear enemies before you see them, and therefore the ability to start developing tactics for fights. But it's nearly impossible to tell the elevator wall panels from regular walls, which can leave you feeling stuck or spawned in a level with no escape or -- just as frustrating, with your back turned to a horde of enemies you had no idea were coming. Additionally, there are stations in levels to help give health or more ammo, but it isn't uncommon to see these cruelly generated beneath turrets or that they are exorbitantly expensive anyway. You can certainly have fun in Strafe, but you'll need a ton of luck and even more patience.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about nostalgia. Why in 2017 would a game advertise itself so proudly to be influenced by 1996? Do you notice this in other mediums, too? What patterns do you notice in works like this?
Why is the shooter genre so popular in video games? Do you think anything will ever over-take it as the most dominant genre? What sorts of video games would you like to see that don't yet exist? Why do you think they aren't yet a reality?
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