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The community’s enemies come face to face with Stevie and Josey with surprising results. And Josey’s past has come for an unwanted visit.

Real skull. Don't ask. You wouldn't believe it if I told you.

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Gaming

Let’s! Revolution! @ PAX: Minesweeping Madness

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Continuing with video games I got to try out at PAX East, I was delighted to demo Let’s! Revolution! the debut game by developer and publisher BUCK. BUCK has historically been an animation and design studio, notably having worked on Into the Spiderverse and Love, Death, & Robots. Let’s! Revolution! marks their first foray into the world of video game development. I found this so interesting, I spoke to the Creative Director for Let’s! Revolution! on his career and how BUCK navigated that transition (find it here).

Let’s! Revolution! is a roguelike puzzle game inspired by the classic game Minesweeper. In it, you play as one of six heroes fighting their way along the dangerous roads to the capital city. Once there, you can defeat the tyrannical king and save the kingdom from his reign. Released in July of 2023, the game has been met with high praise. Unsurprisingly, this includes the game’s artistic and musical direction (by the team at Antfood), which is both stylistic and beautiful.

Watch the console reveal trailer here for a taste of the delightful animation and music:

I had the opportunity to play a 20 minute demo of Let’s! Revolution! on the PAX East show floor. I played alongside the Creative Director and other people who worked on the game. It’s important to note that this wasn’t long enough to get a feel for all the characters or the replayability of the game. But, it was definitely long enough to be enchanted by the game and the passion of the people who made it. 

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The core mechanics are inspired by Minesweeper. The player must use the power of deduction to uncover procedurally generated maze pathways to the exit. However, enemies are hidden along the way and can defeat the player before they reach their goal. Each character has their own special abilities that can help. Items and general abilities can also be bought or discovered to make your hero more powerful. All of these are limited in some way either by energy (your action currency) or limited uses per run.

A screenshot of gameplay from Let’s! Revolution!

From what I played, the gameplay is relatively simple with a mix of chance and strategy. I liked the cozy atmosphere, especially when combined with the ‘high stakes’ mechanics associated with Minesweeper. The UI was easy to understand and interact with while still being cohesive with the storytelling. And of course, the character design is exquisite and narratively driven, with many of the characters presenting as queer. 

Having released on consoles earlier this month (April 2024), Let’s! Revolution! is even easier to access than ever. Let’s! Revolution! is a perfect game for those who love cozy roguelites and beautiful (queer) aesthetics. I definitely recommend it for fans of roguelites looking to try something fresh. Look for it anywhere you game!

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)


Check out my other PAX posts here!

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Gaming

Interview with Creative Director Michael Highland: Let’s! Revolution! @ PAX

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Another game I had the chance to play at PAX East was, Let’s! Revolution!, a Minesweeper-inspired roguelite puzzle game by animation (and now game) studio, BUCK. I talk more about the game itself in another post. Here, I wanted to highlight the conversation I had with Michael Highland, the Creative Director for Let’s! Revolution! and his journey through video game development.


How did you become involved in video game development?

I studied digital media design in college; this was before there were many programs dedicated to game development. After graduating, I self-published a mobile game called Hipster City Cycle with friends. Over the next few years, I slowly got more freelance work as a game designer, and eventually landed a full-time role at thatgamecompany working on the follow-up to their 2012 GOTY Journey. I worked my way up there and was eventually the Lead Designer on Sky: Children of the Light. Working at thatgamecompany opened a lot of doors professionally. I eventually wound up at BUCK, where I saw the opportunity to help establish a new game studio within a very vibrant existing creative culture.

What has been the most challenging aspect of the development process?

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Each studio has its own unique issues based on the people involved. There are commonalities like the need to fight feature creep and building consensus around ideas early in the process when all you have is an abstract grey box prototype to react to. At BUCK the biggest challenge has been channeling the abundance of creative energy and talent into a shippable product. There’s a ton of enthusiasm for games within the company, and without clear product-centric goals (who is the target audience, what platform are we releasing on, what’s the marketing strategy), projects have the tendency to spiral out of scope. Another challenge has been building credibility with publishers. BUCK has an amazing pedigree for animation and design, maybe the best in the world, but when we initially pitched ideas to publishers, they all said the same thing: looks great, but until you’ve shipped a game, you’re too high-risk. That’s what led to us self-publishing Let’s! Revolution! Now that we have a well-reviewed game out in the wild, I feel confident we’ll have more luck with publishers. 

BUCK primarily has its roots in animation, what led the decision to start branching into video game development?

It started with a general excitement about the medium and a desire among the staff to work on a game. Leadership at BUCK is all about providing the staff with exciting creative opportunities, and getting to work on a game, is, for some, a creative dream come true. And putting BUCK content out in the world is a point of pride and a boost to morale. From a business perspective, the fact we can staff out game projects with the top animation and design talent in the world is a huge advantage. We’re already starting to see new opportunities for the service side of the business based on the success of Let’s! Revolution! 

The art, unsurprisingly, is delightful. What were some of the priorities during the character design process and how did those influence the final hero designs?

Our Art Director Emily Suvanvej really led the charge on the look of the game. There are obvious influences like Studio Ghibli, Moebius, and Steven Universe. My shared goal with Emily was to make something together that reflected the diversity of the team’s artistic and lived experiences. The artists put so much love into the character designs and animation, it really shows. 

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Some of the primary game mechanics take inspiration from Minesweeper, what was the process like to create your own interpretation of those classic mechanics?

This article goes into depth on this topic. The TLDR is that we took a very iterative approach, at each stage trying to identify what was working about the prototype and lean into that. The initial game concept came together relatively quickly in part because our goal for this project was just to finish a game. We just focused on what was good and kept building on it. I wouldn’t say the final game is “perfect” – but we wound up with a much bigger and higher quality experience than I expected by not letting perfectionism get in the way of making good better. 

Is there anything else you would like to plug or that you think is important for people to know about Let’s! Revolution! or other upcoming projects?

The music and sound design for the game is stellar. We worked with a creative audio company called Antfood and they knocked it out of the park. The audio got an honorable mention from IGF, which I think is extra impressive because most of the other games were audio-centric titles with some unusual hook to the sound design. For the OST, Antfood reworked all of the music from the game into a continuous flow, like a concept album. It’s so good. I love working with them.

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Movies n TV

American Horror Story Delicate, Little Gold Man

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Last night’s episode of American Horror Story Delicate was wild. From its star-studded start to its powerfully quiet finish, I was enthralled through every moment.

Let’s discuss.

The story

We begin this episode at the funeral of Dex’s mom. While he’s giving a eulogy, which was very nice, Ms. Preecher walks in. She shouts to the room that Virginia didn’t commit suicide, she was murdered. She also tells Dex to listen to his wife.

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What a concept!

Touched by this, or maybe just curious, Anna goes to the hospital to check on Preecher. She falls asleep at the hospital. When she wakes up, Preecher is gone. A nurse says that she was discharged to a group of women.

While at the hospital, Anna also discovers that she’s been nominated for best actress.

Kim Kardashian in American Horror Story Delicate.

At a publicity event for the awards, Anna runs into Cora. And she sees the coat she remembers from her late-night visit near the start of her pregnancy.

With the slightest amount of pressure, Cora spills it all. She and Dex have been having an affair, and Cora was trying to sabotage Anna’s pregnancy. So Anna, channeling her inner Madison Montgomery, kicks him out and heads to the awards ceremony with Siobhan.

There, Siobhan asks her if she wants an Oscar more than anything. If she’d be willing to give up anything for it.

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And Anna says yes.

The bargain is then sealed with a kiss.

Kim Kardashian and Emma Roberts in American Horror Story Delicate.

What worked

I’d like to begin, paradoxically, at the end of the episode. We’ve seen Anna have some terrible, loud, frightening hallucinations in this season. At least, we assume they’re hallucinations. But this one wasn’t loud. It was, in fact, very quiet. Anna is led off stage, without a word, leaving nothing but a puddle of blood behind.

In horror, like in all art, the notes you don’t play are as important as the ones you do. And the notes that weren’t played her rang like a bell.

I also appreciated that this episode describes why being a celebrity would be a huge pain in the ass. Imagine going to an event where the whole purpose is for people to take pictures of you while holding their product. Imagine if they invaded your personal space, sprayed things on you, put things over your eyes, and you were expected to smile and pose.

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I don’t know what it is about being a celebrity that makes others feel entitled to a person. To talk with them, take their time, and share in their moments. To touch them without consent. Yes, there are way worse things happening to people. But this isn’t a great way to live. It’s no wonder so many of them go nuts. This is most clearly shown in the scene when Anna is sitting next to Preecher’s bed. She wakes up to find the older woman gone. But all anyone wants to talk about is how she was just nominated for an Oscar. At that moment, she doesn’t give a damn. She cares about this kind woman, and where she’s gone. Just like any other person.

Finally, I appreciated that this season didn’t do what so many AHS seasons do. Which is to say that this episode didn’t feel like the last episode. It felt like the penultimate episode. It felt like there was still more story to tell, not just loose ends to be wrapped up. I appreciate that the writers have finally learned that lesson.

For this season, at least.

What didn’t work

The first thing that bothered me in this episode was Cora’s confession. I said something about this during our live-watch event on Threads. (Join us next week for the finale. Bring popcorn and wine.)

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I don’t believe Cora’s confession. I further don’t believe that she just dumped all of this incriminating info on Anna with no more prompting than a wide-eyed look. There was just no reason for it. So, Anna saw her coat? Lots of people have similar coats. This feels fake, and she brought no receipts.

Tavi Gevinson in American Horror Story Delicate.

I also found Siobhan’s behavior confusing. At times she seems genuinely concerned for Anna’s wellbeing. At other times, she is more than willing to let her suffer and risk her pregnancy.

While this has been going on all season, it was happening every few minutes in this one. Either Siobhan cares about the welfare of that fetus, or she doesn’t. But she needs to pick a lane.

All in all, I don’t know what to expect from next week’s season finale. Anna has her Oscar, but now she might lose her baby. She might also get sucked into some horrible cult and experience a bad death. We won’t know until next week.

See you then.

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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