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31Jan2007 1931: Mook of the Month

Hotel Dusk saw a LOT of action over the weekend. I am completely enamored with its sketchy portraits and its over-the-top noir monologues, but it joins God Hand in the list of games where I find it difficult to explain exactly why I love it. Watch any five minutes of God Hand and you'll see a couple zany things and then the player will probably die. It's not a thrilling spectator game, and when I try to highlight some of the brilliant moments I end up feeling like a jackass fighting five Power Ranger midgets.

Hotel Dusk has the opposite problem. I can say "plot" and just let somebody play fifteen minutes, odds are they'll understand what I mean. But there aren't enough bits on the Intertubes to communicate what about the plot is so great. For example, you play as a tough-talking ex-cop from NYC who quit the force three years ago after shooting his partner who may have been on the take from a crime syndicate that had hired the friend of a pickpocket to steal a painting called "Angel Opening a Door" that you see on a bookmark dropped by an author staying in the small Nevada hotel where you wash up as a door-to-door salesman that also occasionally "finds things" for his boss who is an ex-cop from LA who tells you that the crime syndicate that may or may not have been paying off your ex-partner is after the pickpocket from NYC who may or may not have stolen their take for "Angel Opening a Door" and who is now the bellhop at the hotel where you're staying. Also, your ex-partner's body never surfaced from the Hudson River, so you're convinced he's not dead. Alternatively (and a very remote possibility at this point, I admit) you might have died three years ago and this is just some weird purgatory.

You learn most of that by the end of Chapter Two, and I am now on Chapter Six. Hotel Dusk is hot.

And now for a feature I thought about bringing up two weeks ago when the delightful [Amy Winehouse - You Know I'm No Good] showed up on the iTunes store, and again last week when Damon Albarn surfaced with another noodly go-nowhere electronic pop song. Every week I'm going to review the latest free iTunes singles. First review: everybody should go back in time and get You Know I'm No Good.

This week we have [Azzido da Bass - Lonely By Your Side], a palatable rock song. It's generic but not offensive in any way. I gave it three stars and will probably never notice it come up on random play, but it would have to go in a Music Purge.

There are two other songs that I think are the first faint stirrings of Black History Month on iTunes, as they are both reggae and...well, they sound like reggae. If that's your thing. Reggae is not any of my things, unless it hits my weak point for historically derided one-hit wonders. [Richie Spice - Brown Skin] and [Gallego - Imaginate]: DELETED.

24Jan2007 1733: The Wii Has Landed

I camped out for a few hours on Sunday to assure myself a Wii from Best Buy. This wasn't strictly necessary as they had a shipment of 50 and there were still plenty of tickets at the time they handed them out, but by the time the store proper openend they were all spoken for. I actually witnessed a ticket change hands for $20. A ticket, a photocopied promise of the privilege of giving Best Buy our money, was worth $20 in line.

I've heard that I could walk into just about any place and pluck a PS3 off the shelf. If I cared to, which I don't. Everything worth playing on Playstation is on the Playstation 2 right now.

So, Wii. As I feared, my friends and I didn't even leave the Mii-maker for two hours; every time we were finishing up someone's avatar, another person showed up. Wii Sports carried us through the evening but I can't see that being the case past a month or so. We're going to need something a little more responsive to the controller before we can really get into it.

I've been trying to keep up with the Wii Fitness test but the Boxing is so alluring that a random sampling of training games holds little fascination. Also, Boxing makes me the sorest. That's how you know exercise is working.

Of course I also picked up Zelda. I dig the sword-slashing but absolutely NOT the "helpful" messages that pop up when doing something incredibly mundane. "You picked up a gold rupee! It's worth twenty (20) rupees!" Some day, some magical day, developers will include an option to turn that shit off.

Fun fact: there are people in this world who have never played a Zelda game. I know! I was in line behind some pre-teen who was totally stoked to get Excite Truck. I was like "What about Zelda? Aren't you going to get Zelda?" The guy in front of him was all "Yeah, Zelda is the reason I'm here". The kid -- I wish I was making this up -- the kid says "What's Zelda?". There might have been something more about "that old game", but I was too stunned to take it all in.

The game loving just keeps on coming this week, assaulting my already damaged pocketbook. Hotel Dusk, from the makers of the excellent-but-short Trace Memory, has finally arrived. Tycho envisions a future filled with games that you read. I'm only an hour or so into Hotel Dusk, but the the odd noir visual style dovetails nicely with the cartoony crayon-ness of Touch Detective. Once the game takes off I'm sure it will be awesome, but right now I'm consumed with the Mystery of the Apple Wine Paintings.

Next week, Rogue Galaxy, which I have been assured is sublime. It's basically the culmination of all Level 5's work on Dark Cloud 2 and Dragon Quest VIII, rolled into a story about space pirates. Space. Pirates.

I am taking this credit card to eleven.

15Jan2007 1742: Sham

I feel like I spent way too much over the holiday; on top of gift-buying there were quite a few monthly and annual bills that came due. I still try to live a modest lifestyle, saving what I can against retirement. So it is from a relatively strong financial position that I offer the world at large one American dollar if they can prevent the latest Shyamalan travesty from ever being made. I consider Avatar to be one of the best cartoons on the air (the others being Venture Brothers and reruns of Invader Zim) while I consider Shyamalan one of the worst things to happen to movies this century, so this news wounds me deeply.

This link is algebraic!

Saturday had an awesome party out near Mayville. I shot guns for the first time ever and did fair enough with a rifle. After it got dark we went inside and gorged on pork loin, then back out to a bonfire where we shot fireworks and shoved sparklers into a Christmas tree and I caught fire! Then there was the improvised but amazing Guitar Hero soundstage in the garage/shop, heated to livable temperatures by a tiny jet engine. Wicked.

08Jan2007 1722: Offspring

I'm trying to figure out what made Children of Men so very delightful. I'm further trying to figure out why my taste suddenly intersects with 92% of the critics.

If I wanted a "man escorts savior of humanity through weird future Earth" story I could certainly just pop in The Fifth Element; it would be cheaper. But despite sharing a rough plot sketch, Fifth Element is as far from Children of Men as you can get without a Teen Disney actress. One has wild primary-colored action exploding forth from the screen at every turn; the other opens with a Brazilian explosion that is entirely incidental to the plot. Children of Men is understated in every way that Fifth Element or I, Robot was not, a vision of the future made plausible by its sheer disinterest in being "the future".

I thought the cast was perfect, with no A-list superstar "talent" hamming it up or stealing scenes. It was nice to see Clive Owen in color, The Operative in a role without a sword, and Julianne Moore (TRUE SPOILER REDACTED) as a fusion of robotic cats. Michael Caine stood out here, but dammit man, get back to Wayne Manor.

Lastly, my friends know me as a very vocal critic of the plague known as shakycam. I'm glad to report that although the camera does act handheld in some scenes, it is not exactly the shakycam of the "great" action movies. As in the Battlestar Galactica series, the shakycam here is limited to a few wobbles and snap-zooms, conveying an immediacy and realism to the scene as opposed to covering for substandard CG and untrained actors. The CG is there, it must be, but it is disturbingly exact. You'll see.

Aaaaagh I just discovered in the most olfactoral way possible that my cheapo rubber ovenmitt isn't rated to 425 degrees. Fahrenheit.

03Jan2007 1831: Newness

Hey, I'm back. Since the last post I've traveled over 1200 miles, bought a small portion of what I need to play a Wii, and baked my first two batches of bread. To be more precise, one batch of bread and one batch of easily portable dough. I also got a new microwave because dammit I'm a homeowner and sometimes 800 watts just isn't enough. Also, honestly, who has a microwave without a turntable? I needed to rectify that situation with quickness.

Speaking of which, there's been an ongoing beer situation in my fridge that I need to solve before Friday.