22May2013 0830: Square One
Microsoft finally took the stage to introduce
predictable results. I left
TV behind last summer after
Guild Wars 2
ate all my spare time, I don't play Madden, and I don't play Call of
Doggy Duty -- there was nothing for me here. At least the
presentation last month was focused on games, game upon game upon game, but
after getting burned
last time I'm not going to throw back in with Sony either. They've been teasing
The Last Guardian for the entire lifespan of the PS3 now; I suspect it will never
come out and it is literally the only reason I bought a PS3 in the first place.
...and after all that bluster I could still be convinced to buy one when the games finally get good enough. Witness my waffling over finally upgrading to a 3DS for the sake of a single title.
I would tell you not to go see
Star Trek: Into Darkness, but
it looks like you didn't anyway.
There may in fact
be a decent Trek movie in there somewhere, but this time around there was too much cinematic
bullshit slathered on top for me. No spoilers (until the end of the paragraph), but when
Benedict Cumberbatch is delivering
his monologue revealing the entire point of the film the camera is just wildly twitching
for no reason. He's in a room, in a lull in the action, speaking directly at the camera;
JJ Abrams thought this would be a great time to vibrate everything. That
ruined the scene for me,
and by extension the rest of the movie. After that point the film quickly slides into
self-parody anyway. It felt like JJ got 80% of the way through a script for a 9/11-inflected
modern Star Trek, then found out he got the job for Star
Wars and just said "Fuck it:
[Thee Oh Sees - Minotaur] is a plodding indie pop tune that meanders around for five minutes. The lead vocalist doesn't want to sing and the lady backer seems to be backing a different song entirely.
[Bleached - Next Stop] is a nice classic sound, the kind of uptempo 80s girl-rock that happened when pop labels got their hands on punk.
[The Thermals - Born to Kill] illustrates the next step in that progression, when labels had thoroughly smoothed out the punk sound and then came back around to the social commentary aspect. Born to Kill is an updated version of the classic [Stooges - Search and Destroy]. listen to this song instead.
15May2013 0900: Put On The Hat
I alluded to it last week, but in between bouts of 999 I was also cranking away on the deep mysteries of Fez. That game came out on the XBox last year and has been thoroughly searched and conquered top to bottom, but I managed to avoid all dem spoilers and go in with little idea of what was to happen. As somebody who had years of subscription to Games Magazine, Fez feels like My Life's Work. Cryptograms, spatial orientation, riddles, owls...this game has it all, even if half of it is hidden along the periphery. It presents as a platforming game but it quickly loses interest with jumping. Make no mistake, if you look up solutions you will ruin this game. You should expect to be doing some code-breaking.
I have to believe that [Luxury Liners - Caribbean Sunset] was commissioned directly by Carnival Cruiselines. It doesn't resemble a Caribbean tune at all, but is pitch-perfect what a marketing executive would order for an island-getaway commercial. "Get me one of those flowing mellow songs we used to have in the eighties. But the kids like dubstep these days...dubstep it up a little. Really get in there with the drum machine, yeah?"
As usual, I'm not going to do any research, but I'm imagining that Luxury Liners is a theme band that performs nothing but potential luxury liner ad music.
Hey, do you want to hear the most annoying sound in the world? [Colin Stetson - High Above a Grey Green Sea]. It's a Sigur Ros song if Sigur Ros was a complete asshole. This free-indie-band playlist is really not working out this month.
08May2013 1800: Nonsense
Over the weekend I wrapped up 999. It may be that I'm coming to the visual novel late. It may be that only the cream of the genre even impacts my consciousness. It may even be that developers of one worked secretly on the other. But 999 and Hatoful Boyfriend both delivered and executed on nearly the same conceit: a bunch of early storylines exploring all the characters and "what-if" endings, capped by a single "true" ending that goes completely off the rails cuckoo crazy. Is that typical to the genre? Do all those random icky dating simulators conclude with "and they were all aliens, except for that one girl who was a robot avatar for the Greek goddess Ceres"? I could play those games forever.
Maybe it's because I'm old, but I find myself getting drawn into games more for the narrative these days. I don't seek out games just to whittle away my life with repetitive tasks -- one of those at a time is plenty, and only on voice chat with friends. I seek out games to tell me a story, games that I can then put down and never play again. Granted, that story can be incredibly oblique and told largely in stone carvings, or it can leave you with more questions than answers, but I can't just go rescue a princess any more. The point is that games that are 95% text have a leg up these days and they're batting 1.000.
Novelty also goes a long way with me. I think 999's late-game swerve is leaving me with a positive impression that wouldn't exist with a "normal" visual novel. The closest analog to these games would be the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure series and those almost never had a twist. When a book is titled Space Vampires you get goddamn space vampires, right? The only secret is how many times you'll die. But if you had to work through five storylines about space vampires only for the longest "true" plot to reveal that the space vampires were fleeing from a warlike race of space werewolves the whole time and then a space werewolf blows up Washington D.C.? That would have acheived gold-plated mythic status in my elementary school.
[Mudhoney - I Like It Small] has all the musicality and lyrical depth I hate about Mojo Nixon. The guy screams for a while about playing small venues and then a chorus joins and helps him shout.
[Brass Bed - I'll Be There With Bells On] starts out with some hard rocking but quickly settles into [Proclaimers - 500 Miles]. We're still in the shallow end of the pool here, but at least these guys aren't shouting.
I'm predisposed to like something touting synæsthesia, but (a) that appears to only be the album title and (b) [Hands - Trouble] doesn't use the cool "æ". Otherwise they're some forgettable synth-pop, somewhere between Flaming Lips and Metronomy.
01May2013 1100: First of May
Woof, April disappeared (into Texas) with very little blogging. I'mma rectify that right now with hot exclusive content! I can't post this on Facebook because that's where moms live, but today is the first of May. Enjoy!
Over Christmas I made my first real foray into visual novels with what may be the apex of the genre, Hatoful Boyfriend. That game/book was astounding. Hatoful tilled the fertile field, and over the past month the Giant Bomb podcast planted the seeds of 999. I'm not averse to reading a book on my DS, and 999 layers on some light adventure gaming to break up the chapters. The plot is basically what happens when an anime director wants to make his own Saw: nine anime stereotypes are trapped on a sinking boat and have to open locked doors using combinatorics. Then people start dying.
It's also keeping me guessing...I think? It uses the same Hatoful structure where you have to play multiple times to see all the bad endings before seeing the good ending(s). The first bad ending I was like "oh, it's obvious those two guys are the evil imposters because math". The second bad ending those same two were not the villains, barring some complicated Ten Little Indians situation. The third bad ending then called out my guess specifically, as one character became the villain to get revenge on the two villains from my first attempt. I have doubt that any of these plots are canonical but I don't see how to prevent any of them. I have no idea what's going on and it is delicious. Although the mere existence of the childhood-friend love interest means that the real ending is either (a) you both escape and live happily ever after or (b) she is the killer, and both options are cliché.
I couldn't locate the usual Google Antenna freebies, but they did have a CMJ indie mixtape full of potential. Some of these free tracks are holdovers from April, so I can say with confidence that I didn't detest [Telekinesis - Ghosts and Creatures] and [Charles Bradley - Strictly Reserved for You]. On top of those I can now add [The Postal Service - A Tattered Line of String] because goddamn it's new Postal Service. It's like getting chocolate stout after years of making do with lite lager.