28Sep2011 1630: A Different Kind of Game
Amazon is doing a thing today, but their tireless robots are still keeping me updated on the journey of my Ico & Shadow of the Colossus Shin Mega Remix. Two games I've already played to completion, but I'm currently bouncing in my seat with anticipation. Oh no! I hope my controller is charged up! Every second I delay is another second Yorda is stuck in her cage.
Out for delivery!
This weekend is also NDSU's Homecoming, which normally slides by with nary a thought from me. But this year, NDSU is pitting their Gopher-breaking team against the Illinois State Redbirds, which is my parents' alma mater. So they're coming up north for the weekend and we're attending a football game. But that's not the "game" in the title. The different kind of game will be "showing up at the Fargodome with people wearing red". I hope to set the high score.
Huh...every song from Amazon today is about 50% quieter than usual. I wonder what that's all about. Doesn't matter, as SPOILER they are all pretty bad.
Hey, the Rosebuds. I remember this album art from my time at Pandora. [The Rosebuds - Silence By the Lakeside] is...not how I remember them sounding. I really thought they were part of my indie-female-folk collective, but this is more like Wicked Game. Way too much like Wicked Game. Who is this guy? Dammit. Also I just noticed that Amazon has it listed as "Silence By the Lakeide", which is unacceptable.
[Wolves In The Throne Room - Woodland Cathedral] is not kidding about the cathedral part. Some stoners got it in their head to create the perfect fusion of ambient and indie rock: man, we can have the fuzz guitars hold a note for like thirty seconds! Then they got the local Lutheran choir in for a recording session: here, Vincent wrote these totally rad words and we'd like you to, y'know, hymn them up! And the overall effect is a Modest Mouse song stretched out to a ridiculous degree, overlaid with that Gregorian chants fad.
[Vivian Girls - Take It As It Comes] is a throwback to 50s girl pop, complete with spoken-word interludes as two girls moon over a "Johnny". Is...is this song a joke? I can't tell. Are the Vivian Girls actually lesbian lovers who made this ironically? Because -- as much as I like the old rock sound -- I can't picture the lyrics of this getting written in 2011.
21Sep2011 0945: Breaking Free
Now that I've spent a couple weeks playing free games, I thought it was time to get back into some paid games. And hey, it's also the fall! When game companies decide to start putting out games again! Obviously there are Gears of War 3 and Ico and Shadow of the Colossus Super HD Remix to fill out my AAA requirements, but the sticker shock after playing so much free stuff could be too much for a person to handle. Luckily we have a couple $5 options that look sweet.
I watched the Quick Look for a game called Blocks That Matter and bought it from Steam before the video was even finished. A magnificent marriage of Tetris and Solomon's Key, Blocks That Matter is a puzzle game that presents a simple solution to each level and then an optional bonus block that requires some more work to fetch and then a "star rating" for bringing a certain amount of blocks to each exit. You play as a little driller robot that drills Minecraft blocks to collect them, but you can only place them again in Tetris shapes, and you have to build platforms to get to the exit like in Solomon's Key. The Quick Look (and this post) is all the info you need, and at $5 I give it my highest recommendation.
Next week another $5 superstar comes out, The Binding of Isaac. Let me see if this grabs you: Roguelike Zelda. That's right, somebody finally made a randomly-generated Zelda dungeon. Everybody on the Internet needs to give these guys their money. The main programmer was one half of the team that made Super Meat Boy, so you know Isaac is going to be quality.
[Neon Indian - Polish Girl] kicks off with delicious NES-era beeping and then goes full 80s with some glam-disco-dance. It has similar appeal to Ladyhawke and could in fact be mistaken for a song that plays over the credits of an 80s movie...like Ladyhawke. And oh god the NES and Game Boy samples don't ever stop! It's kicking me right in the nostalgia.
Hey, it's Mates of State! [Mates of State - Palomino] is more indie guy-girl close harmonies. My ranking of indie guy-girl close harmonies goes like Mates of State > The Submarines > The Weepies, so if that means anything to you I think you should get this song.
This is not the first time you've heard [Foreigner - Feels Like the First Time]. It's #1 today because (a) it's a classic hit that's (b) free. Why not download? Even if you hate Foreigner, you can download it and then delete it out of spite -- still free!
14Sep2011 1800: Autumn
Finally, summer is over and it's getting crisp out. Spring and fall are both pretty great, but spring is also a pretty floody time in Fargo so fall wins. Right now it's that perfect temperature, where you don't need the heater on but can comfortably walk outside or take a bike ride. So naturally I've been spending a lot of time inside playing Spiral Knights and Forsaken World. Spiral Knights is still fun and Forsaken World is...something. I've never played World of Warcraft, but I thought I understood the appeal before. Clearly I did not; I thought the only draw were the massive endgame dungeons with 40+ players all working over a huge dragon. But no, that's just a symptom. I'm never going to reach maximum level in Forsaken World, but moment-to-moment there are a dozen tiny quests pulling me in all directions and dozens of small crafting opportunities to distract me from the quests. Guild Wars focused itself on story and acquiring new skills to the exclusion of loot and armor and crafting. Now I see the alternative, and it scares me (for several hours every night).
[Ivy - Fascinated] is mild synth pop. Even the chorus doesn't get too bouncy, with a only couple of extra piano loops to signify that she's about to repeat some words. It has a mellow girly groove that reminds me of the best 90s radio. Are those songs back in style again? Where a no-name British techno band would remix a Suzanne Vega or Shawn Colvin song and get some airplay?
I already had [Veggie Tales - The Hairbrush Song], so I skipped over to the third place song, [The Ladybug Transistor - Breaking Up on the Beat]. Monthly $5 favorites and previous freebies, the Ladybugs are semi-precious indie pop. Still remind me of Camera Obscura.
[Avalon - Alive] is probably a Christian band. They try to sound like Evanescence, but the lyrics are even more obviously Jesus-oriented. And yes, King Arthur was a Christian, but I have to wonder about the symbology of using a non-Heaven afterlife destination as your band's name.
07Sep2011 1800: Degrees of Freedom
September has arrived with its crop of $5 Amazon albums. As long as I'm getting back into Magic cards I may as well put Counting Crows back on my speakerbox, right? The entire batch seems to have a lot more Greatest Hits collections than usual, with anthologies from Blink 182, The Ramones, Boyz II Men, Seals & Crofts, and Red Hot Chili Peppers. To name not all of them.
But $5 isn't quite free, and it's free I'm here to talk about today. Steam recently set up a section of Free-To-Play games -- which are really Pay-Tiny-Amounts games -- and after our game group powered through what Terraria had to offer we decided over the weekend to try a few of these "free" games out.
My extensive research and expert opinion is that Spiral Knights has just enough stuff to keep me occupied and I think I'm able to avoid getting nickeled and $2.50ed to death. I used to play a game called B.O.T.S. which had a similar theme of robots hitting stuff in randomized dungeons. In Spiral Knights they allow a player to do X amount of stuff per day, but if you really wanted they would not be adverse to taking some money to let you have more units of X. Also some of the high-level stuff costs 3X.
Forsaken World is another
generic title contender. I've never played WoW, but I understand
that this is a fairly standard WoW clone. There are hotbars and daily quests
and kill-stealing everywhere, and my time in Guild Wars did not prepare me for
the assault on my senses. There are microtransactions in here somewhere, but
for the life of me I don't know where. We all leveled up to our mid-20s in one
evening and without reading a single thing the game was trying to tell us.
That's actually the one great gameplay mechanic Forsaken World has shown me: you can click a name or location in the quest description -- helpfully highlighted in green -- and then your character walks there automatically. Does WoW have this? Because Guild Wars sure didn't. The end result is that I have no idea where anything in Forsaken World actually is; whenever I have to talk to Henry or kill 5 wamp rats I can just click "Henry" or "wamp rats" and take a drink while my dude walks over to the target. The intervening distance or direction is completely meaningless. They rendered this huge world and I'm navigating it like Myst. But I'm okay with that, because their color choices for text and backgrounds is well-nigh unreadable from six feet away. As long as I can see green and know where my attack skills are, I can "play" the game.
[Thrice - Deadbolt] is screamo-punk vocals married to some thrash metal guitar. It leads with the guitars so I was bracing myself for hair metal, but then Standard Screamo Guy showed up and I was all "oh". And then I was like "delete".
[Stephen Merritt - The Sun and The Sea and The Sky] is probably that guy from The National, but I'm sticking to my policy of not researching this shit. It's a quiet acoustic song fronted by that dour delivery and I guess I'll keep it around. Plus the title made me think of "the moon, the sun, and the sky" from [Silversun Pickups - Lazy Eye], and I'll use any excuse to fire up that song.
Oh lord, here we go. Hair metal extraordinaire Sebastian Bach is here with [Sebastian Bach - Kicking and Screaming]. This is everything I feared the first song would be. I'm surprised it's not in Rock Band, as there's the typical amount of guitar wankery and...enough?...vocals.
Wash the taste of that out of your mouth with $5 Tegan and Sara go go GO.