27Feb2008 2133: Ambushed by Reggae
I finally finished Mass Effect over the weekend, giving it every spare moment (hint: I have a lot of those) in one last push to get it done before Super Smash Brothers Brawl comes out and annihilates the gameoverse. Not only is there the usual fighting mode and paper-thin single player "classic" mode, there is a single-player story mode that I've heard takes upwards of ten hours to complete. Ten hours of Smash Brothers is a fuckton of smashing. And then if all of that starts to lose its luster, there's a countably infinite number of other stages to play. It is my sincerest wish that the stage builder, combined with Sonic, will enable me to construct a hedgehog stomping on a pink stapler, forever.
Right. Mass Effect. I think it was the Unicorn Jelly forums where somebody said it was like playing their own personal season of Babylon 5, and that statement is approximately 97% truth. It is precisely like playing Babylon 5, and my judicious use of italics indicates to those who have seen Babylon 5 that perhaps they will know precisely what happens in the last couple hours of this game. Mass Effect was always planned as a trilogy, and it does a much better job of both wrapping up this game and setting up the series than Assassin's Creed ever did. I put in about 27 hours on this play and I didn't even get the achievement for playing the majority of the game; my sidequest log is a long and sad tale of neglect. If you can spare a day's worth of time and you don't try to play the game like a Gears of War clone, I urge you to rent/buy this game and see what all my fuss is about.
And yes you can nail a blue alien chick can we get past this already?
[Mavado - Last Night] is a reggae song about a wordsmith. I think. Mavado apparently got into a fight with the wordsmith last night? And there was anthracite? As a reggae song it presents a very pleasing beat and a wall of impenetrable vocals. I really don't know if anything here sets it apart from other reggae, unless it's the topic of fighting rather than smoking up and loving.
Let's move on to [Ingravitto - Mama Tierra]. Sure, Spanish songs are just as impenetrable to me, but I expect that -- oh shit. This is Spanish reggae. All I got out of this was the "yeah mon"s that show up when the second guy takes over, and occasionally they say "Mother Earth".
It was with trembling fingers that I prepared to review [Danger - 11h30], from their incredibly numeric EP "9/14 2007". There's a pyramid on the cover...could this be some sort of Egyptian reggae? Was Apple playing a prank on me with some sort of unannounced reg-day? Fortunately Danger is not a reggae band at all, and by virtue of not being reggae it is the winner of this week's iTunes Singles roundup. The song opens with thirty seconds of pretty great chiptune and then jumps into an unintelligible dance tune sung by a chipmunk with Down's Syndrome. I understand I might be overhyping this after sitting through two reggae songs, but the lyrical reveal is pretty epic. Not as epic as the classic iTunes surprise, but still pretty awesome. This is a song I will keep around when I need to clear the entire room right fucking now, and also to secretly give four stars and bop along to when I'm all alone.
22Feb2008 1401: Rivers and Valleys
Oh hell yes. River City Ransom has appeared on the Wii Virtual Console across the Atlantic. Now, the release schedules for VC games aren't exactly synchronized, but this does pretty much confirm that it will come out here eventually, if not soon. I've had VC money just sitting there stagnating after buying Sin & Punishment, waiting specifically for River City Ransom. Soon.
On the other end of the technology spectrum, Mova is what the other side of the Uncanny Valley looks like. We've gone past "stylized" down through "creepy" and are now scaling the slopes of "awesome".
20Feb2008 2145: Laid to Rest
This is criminal. I've seen 14% movies, okay? 14% movies are really easy to pick out. Jumper is way better than any of those movies. Don't get me wrong, it has two big problems; namely that it's obviously angling for a sequel/trilogy and never quite finishes its own arc, and Hayden Christensen. Let's just say that I no longer place all the blame on George Lucas for Hayden's performance.
But shit, Jumper is at least a 50% action movie, probably closer to the 60% that IMDB has right now. If you have a raging erection for personal teleportation like I do, it's more of an 85% to buy-it-on-DVD movie. I was sorely disappointed with the wussy Nightcrawler in X-Men 2. His namby-pamby "ooo it is so difficult to teleport to places I cannot see while carrying such a heavy accent" made me want to bamf up and smack him across the face. Jumper is diametrically opposed to such whining. We get a not-brief-enough montage of David discovering his powers that is irreparably marred by Hayden's voiceover -- I tried to imagine the scenes without it and they were about 75% better -- and then wham, we get right to him exploiting his powers for money and amusement. He goes about systematically testing what he can and cannot do, and then takes the things he can do to their logical extremes. It is fucking sweet. It reminded more than one of us of Read or Die in the way that all the supers are so comfortable with their power. Sure, the middle third bogs down with some silly meant-to-be romance and of course she gets kidnapped near the end, but we also get a lot of perfect teleportation action sequences. God, it's beautiful.
The only way this movie could pander to me more would be some teleportation through time and an ensuing causal loop. And can causal loops be said to "ensue"? Anyway, if critics are willing to give breaks to paper-thin movies just because they deliver exactly what you expect, then there is no way Jumper gets anything less than average. See this movie. I eagerly await the inevitable sequels, 2 Jump 2 Furious and Jumper 3: Jump the Moon.
According to Professor Layton's internal rightometer I not only beat the game, I was correct over 120 times! There are apparently more puzzles I didn't find, and even more coming weekly from the magical internets, but for now I am content that I was right about everything.
EDF 2017 is more of a co-op experience, so I've been trying to get back into Mass Effect during the weekends. I'm finally back on the main plot after getting sidetracked (to the Moon!) and I really really want to love this game. Mass Effect is making that as difficult as it can, though. On Thursday I saved my game in a side room, away from the monster insects roaming the snow-covered halls of a mountaintop extreme-science laboratory. Then I died, and when I reloaded this save the door to the room was locked from the outside. This is inexcusable. My previous save was forty minutes behind, just before the trek to said mountaintop.
Following the successful boning of that planet, my character got stuck inside a wall. Twice. Once in the supposed safety of my own ship, and once in a space-sewer while dodging rockets. There's a palpable wave of anger coming from this game, anger at those who would dare disturb its slumber.
Show of hands, who here is a girl between the ages of 9 and 15? Okay, go pick up the latest in a long line of similar pop songs, [I Nine - Seven Days of Lonely]. I've avoided radio as much as I can for like five years now, and songs like this are a large portion of the "why". I still get exposed during pre-movie ad reels and it burns.
[Kelley Polar - Entropy Reigns (In The Celestial City)] teased me with the full checklist of indie-chick-folk trappings. Band name is just the female lead's name? Check. Song and album title are long and vaguely downbeat? Check. Album cover has pastel colors and looks like it was inked by hand? Check. So imagine my surprise when it turns out to be some appealing electronic-pop thing. Pretty sure I've recommended songs like this in the past, and I'm keeping this one around, but only at three stars.
[Gabby Villaneuva - Mundos Diferentes] has this weird aesthetic that I think works. The opening guitar reminds me of something from the 80s, but the tempo and vocals put me somewhere in the 90s, and of course I have no idea what she's saying. It can stay for now but I don't know if it'll hold up over time. I'm trying to think of another band to compare it to and I can't. Berlin? No. Wilson Phillips? Dammit, I'm trying to forget them.
13Feb2008 2253: Also
Oh shit I almost forgot. My friends are going to roll their eyes at this, but I'm pretty sure everybody in the Mysterious Village that Professor Layton is investigating is a cylon.
13Feb2008 2115: At Both Ends
I've finally kicked the Burnout Paradise habit. Booting up that game would take up all the odd minutes I had throughout the day, and more often than not balloon those spare minutes into hours like some sort of hideous reverse-time-machine. But I'm shut of it now and moving on to other games.
...because I lent it to my boss who was looking for 360 games that were worthwhile and I hope he takes his sweet-ass time with it because my thumbs are starting to itch.
Until that fateful day when Burnout returns, I've got a couple more awesome items to play. The new arrival this week is Professor Layton and the Curious Village. Layton is quite explicitly a brain-training game wrapped in a cartoon. Tycho has some very insightful words, as usual. Unlike some other games I've recommended, I know exactly why I dig Layton. Over the years I have subscribed to Games magazine a few times, each time just long enough to build up a large years-spanning backlog of crossword puzzles. I have also been known to watch "the anime" from time to time.
Professor Layton is a miraculous fusion of mid-80s anime style (complete with absolutely wretched fake accents) and brainteasers that never outright state that your brain is getting younger. It's like working on a fresh new Games magazine while The Mysterious Cities of Gold is on in the background. Alternately, it's like trying to watch My Neighbor Totoro while your younger sibling interrupts you with their new book "1001 Brainteasers." Your enjoyment of it depends solely on whether you're more interested in the story or the puzzles because, buster, this game is mostly about the puzzles.
Way way away from this relaxed cartoon puzzle game is the spectacular Earth Defense Force 2017. You know how in Godzilla movies there's always the completely ineffectual human military getting humbled by the monster of the week? Yeah, in EDF2017 you're those guys. The entire game is you and your tiny squad trying desperately not to get buttraped by giant robots or giant ants or holy shit giant robots AND giant ants! I'm just a wee bit obsessed with this game right now; Nucleoid and I stayed up until 6 in the fucking AM on Sunday playing this game, and only then did we realize that we weren't signed into an XBox Live profile, preventing us from saving our progress. Far from discouraging me, this has only strengthened my resolve to commit insectile genocide. This game is simple by design, a lovely throwback to the arcade days when hundreds of things wanted to kill you at once, and there is never more than two minutes between the menu screen and you shooting the motherichor out of an ant colony.
[Santos de Los Angelos - The Sweetest Thing] is a jaunty little groove. I'd guess that Santos de Los Angelos is normally a ska band, 'cause this is what happens when a ska band mellows out for a song in the middle of their album. It's also just sappy enough to count as a Valentine's Day song, so y'know, whatever.
[Addison Road - All That Matters] is by-the-numbers rock. It has two verses, a small bridge, and repeats the chorus quite a lot at the end. It also has that slightly metallic vocal processing that seems to be all the rage this decade, and I cannot wait until that goes away. You maybe have heard this one already? You'll think so, anyway.
[ADELE - Hometown Glory] shouts her name so that you'll pay attention to her, because this song is really kind of boring. Lady vocals + piano usually = win for Monty, but this one just never gets off the ground. The piano in particular is stupid-repetitious; I like her voice in theory but she doesn't do anything with it. I might be convinced to check out some of her other songs in the hopes that they are exciting, but this one is big ol' yawn.
06Feb2008 2111: The Execution of All Things
This weekend was a good time for endings. On Friday I finished No More Heroes, and while I highly recommended actually playing this game, you can spoil yourself rotten by watching all the boss' death scenes as well as the real ending. NMH is a marvel from start to finish as much for its structure as for its characters, but these cliff notes are decent enough.
I think what I like the most, aside from the Bad Girl fight music, is how the first half of the game set up a standard video game scenario with increasingly difficult levels and boss fights, and then the last half takes a very obvious break with that formula and tweaks something in each successive level.
Then on Sunday I "beat" Burnout Paradise. I don't think I've talked about this here amid all the No More Heroes love, but this game is also well worth your $60 to pick up and play right friggin' now. Such a freeform game doesn't want to admit that it might someday end, but credits were rolled and cars were unlocked, so I think it's safe to say I'm in the epilogue at this point. The end clocked in at about 25 hours in ten days. Do you understand what I just said? Fully ten percent of my life was spent driving virtual cars around a virtual city smashing virtual billboards, and I am still going back to play right after this post.
Are you tired of links yet? I'm not, because this Zelda comic is easily the best thing to come out of the cartoon series. This anime music video is Read-or-Die-approved 100% awesome, with a word-perfect song that begs for hyphen-abusing praise. After you watch that a few times, you'll be in the perfect frame of mind to picture all the many wonderful horrible things I could do with a spicer like this. Man, I like salt, and if I could eat salt while also pantomiming suicide I would. Unfortunately I think that thing's only a concept piece...
(I just set the Bad Girl theme to loop for a third time)
We are blessed with four iTunes singles this week. Well, y'know, blessed in quantity. I immediately discarded contestants 1 and 4, [Myra & Veze Skante - Back to You] is limp hip-hop and [Sean Kingston - I'm Eighteen] is only featured because he name-checks voting. It's like all the holiday songs you only trot out for Thanksgiving, except for Super Tuesday.
[Yael Naim - Far Far] has a pretty nice voice and the song is okay, but she's done better. From these two data points I conclude that she has a problem with letting her songs go on about thirty seconds longer than I care to listen.
The sort-of winner this week is [We the Kings - Check Yes
Juliet]. When I saw the title I said to myself, I said, "Self, this is probably some
pop-punk in the vein of Blink 182 or Jimmy Eat World." Pop punk is represented on the
Burnout Paradise soundtrack, so it's not like I'm totally averse to such things. I
responded, "This is probably a song designed specifically for teenagers to like
because it's coming out of the radio in the car their parents let them borrow." Then I
felt bad for being such a curmudgeon had this great mental image;
you know those stereotypical gossip notes that get passed around in class? Something
hey J horatio sez romeo likes u & wants to know what
light upon yonder window breakz check one <3
[ ] the east and I am the sun
[ ] ick no, cooties
That made me laugh. So then I actually downloaded the song and it was pretty much exactly like that. It's some incredible fusion of Romeo and Juliet and Say Anything, which would make it some kind of modern teen reimagining of the classic oh shit oh god OH NO