Trouble Thinking

August 31, 2010

Invaders Must DIE!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Durandal @ 9:00 am

This song has been in my head since I found it looking for some of the music from Scott Pilgrim. I’m only just now sharing it with you because I never really thought of you as a close friend. It’s off of the newest album by famed beep-boop-blip music creators “The Prodigy“. Can’t quite remember the album name, but I’m sure it will come to me.

August 30, 2010

Comics Are Boss: Joker and Lex

Filed under: Comics — Tags: , , , , — Durandal @ 5:43 pm

So Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo made this backup feature for Superman/Batman #75, and it’s picture-perfect awesome.

The only other stuff I really know Azzarello from is 100 Bullets, which I absolutely loved. You should probably buy 100 Bullets.

August 27, 2010

Bioshock: A Beginner’s Thoughts, part 1

Filed under: Video Games — Tags: , , , — Katherine Barclay @ 8:30 am

I should probably start this off by saying that although I’m probably more of a gamer than I think I am, I’m still not much of a gamer. Obvious contradictions aside, while I’ve always liked the idea of video/computer games of all sorts, I’ve never really had the chance to play anything other than Super Smash Brothers for more than twenty minutes, and consequently rather tend to suck. I like the stories in games, and I like watching them unfold, but rather than take up the controller myself and condemn myself to afternoons of endless dying, I tended to decide to take the much less humiliating route of watching my boyfriend play for me.

This is how I first met Bioshock, when it was new and shiny however-long ago it came out. I went over to my boyfriend’s place, sat down on his couch, looked over at the TV where he was playing some sort of game thing, and – “There are bees coming out of your hands!!” There was also a story, something about a sunken Libertarian distopia and rivaling urban-gangster boss figures, and creepy little girls who kept souped-up scuba-divers as pets, but for that first walkthrough my head pretty much stopped at ‘dude, you have superpowers, and they’re awesomely freaky!’.

So when time passed, and I found myself with both more spare time than I knew what to do with and a bit of spare change, I decided that I had to try playing the game for myself. I realise I’m late to the party on this one, and that everyone with an X-box has already gotten about all they can out of the game already, but hey – someone has to represent the stragglers, right?

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August 25, 2010

RUSE PC Demo is Out!

Filed under: Game News — Tags: , , , , , , — Durandal @ 4:44 pm

RUUUUUUSSSE
RUUUSE

The PC demo is out! Single-player, but it will whet your whistle for the release in September!

Okay I know this is already a lost cause, I know that. Starcraft 2 has effectively killed any other game that is even remotely like it, squashing them before they even get a chance to show their colors. Like the inevitable -yet no less horrific for that very inevitability- consequence of taking your pet peacock to an industrial site.

But I want you to stop and think for a second: are you playing Starcraft 2 right now? Hell, do you maybe not even like Starcraft 2? Or RTS games? Or games at all? RUSE might be a great option for a fun time then. It is, in many ways, the polar opposite of Starcraft. It is slow paced, it emphasizes large strategic-level decisions rather than smaller tactical ones, and being quick on the draw is worth significantly less than having a solid idea of where you want to position yourself. It’s a very entertaining and different take on the genre, bringing in some much needed innovation.

RUSE is essentially a simulation of that scene in World War 2 movies where they push around little groups of army men on a board in response to intel. Except you know, prettier. It’s very focused on making your opponent make a mistake by playing with what information he or she has access to. To that end, in addition to the standard building of little army men to attack them, you can hide your units in forests and cities, and use command abilities called “Ruses” to make dummy units, cloak your troops, hide your structures, make your tanks look tiny… lots of fun little ways of playing around with perceptions. Backing that up is a pretty solid combat system based on simple hard counters with a couple of tweaks. What that means is that your infantry can always be killed by armored vehicles, your armored vehicles can always be killed by a tank, your tanks can always be killed by a bomber… etc. The tweaks -like infantry killing tanks if they get the drop on them in a city- add a quite a bit of depth to that. Each side (US/England/Russia/France/Germany/Italy) also have their own idiosyncratic troop types to add to the mix.

It’s also surprisingly pretty at any level of zoom:

Part of why I found it so engaging is that I can make very large scale decisions (I’ll try a feint here, supported by dummies, then push the main force around back under radio silence….) and ignore the minor decision-making of putting down an extra depot every time I want to make new units or clicking about wildly to keep things in position. Micromanaging is kept to a minimum and “skill” with the UI is a very small part of your victory. There’s something very satisfying about knowing that all it took to win was a good read on your opponent and a solid idea of what sort of army you’d need to crack their forces wide open.

I think that any person with even a vague interest in ordering around little army men, even those of you who aren’t generally into it, should give RUSE a try. It’s accessible in a way many modern games are not, and it’s one of the few games I’ve seen recreate the sort of fun I used to have with actual board games.

Also! For people who are way too into game news and hate DRM: they removed the Ubisoft DRM. No crazy DRM! You can purchase without worry!

August 23, 2010

Brink Looks Kind of Cool

Filed under: Game News — Tags: , , , — Durandal @ 9:24 pm


So, “Brink” is a new FPS by a developer called Splash Damage. Being an FPS, it’s mostly about aiming at people and shooting them until they fall over, but it’s got a couple of interesting ideas that make it worth a look in my opinion. First is the multiplayer. Yes, I know other FPS games have multi-player you clever little things. What sets Brink apart is a few small but important tweaks. First of all, single-player advancement in their little system of gaining experience to acquire cooler stuff rolls into multi-player advancement. So rather than entirely separating single from multi-player, Splash Damage have given you the same carrot as an incentive to play both.

The second interesting idea is the manner in which that experience is handed out to you.

Using the objective wheel, you can always see your current primary objective. That objective will be driven dynamically based on real-time battlefield data, such as your class, condition and location, as well your teammates and the overall status of battle. As a result, you’ll always know exactly where to go, what to do when you get there, and what your reward will be for success.

In addition to the primary objective, the mission wheel will dynamically offer you opportunities for other contextual goals and secondary objectives. As an Operative, turn enemy defenses against the opposing team by hacking their sentry guns. Or as an Engineer, upgrading a recently claimed command post may bolster your defensive position.

So by completing secondary objectives you can give your team a competitive edge while earning additional experience points to level up your character.

So basically, they aren’t relying on your dumb ass coming up with “do not die, do what your class is good at” on your own. You’ll be directly compensated for doing the intelligent thing. If your team could use some defensive structures, you’ll be told that it’s possible for you to place those and when you do, you’ll be given a reward in terms of XP. It sounds like an excellent way of allowing games with strangers to stay on track. Instead of everyone just sort of aimlessly ambling toward the enemy, you’ll each have at least a general idea of what needs to be done at any given time.

The other interesting bit about Brink is S.M.A.R.T: the silly acronym for a system that allows you to move a lot more sensibly than most FPS games allow. Basically, you look up or down, hold down a button, and run up to something. Looking up you’ll vault it, looking down you’ll slide under it. People who played “Mirror’s Edge” will be familiar with the style of movement, though it’s been simplified here so as to keep the focus on the shooting. It looks pretty well implemented, and I love anything that makes my decisions in a game more natural.

I’ve kind of developed high hopes for this. Anything co-op always catches my attention, and this looks polished.

August 21, 2010

How to Fix Red Hulk

Filed under: Comics — Tags: , , — Durandal @ 9:45 am

Okay for the non-comics readers: Hulk is a big green dude who is angry and hits stuff, Red Hulk is a big red dude who has been one of the silliest, worst written characters in recent history. Basically a “NUH UNH MY GUY IS INFINITY PLUS ONE STRONG” sort of thing.

Comics, they’re not always boss. Sometimes they’re ridiculous.

But there is a simple, simple way to fix Red Hulk:
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August 20, 2010

Star Ruler: Rule the Stars!

Filed under: Game News — Tags: , — Durandal @ 2:08 pm

So, Star Ruler is a game that’s coming out this weekend by a very tiny indie development outfit called Blind Mind Studios

Star Ruling sometimes requires aggressive posturing and you know, blowing up planets.

Star Ruler is what is commonly known as a “4X” game. The 4 X’s are: eXplore, eXploit, eXpand, eXterminate. Basically, it’s a game where everyone begins quite small, explores the area nearby and claims in this case planets, builds up their economic might, and eventually bumps heads with other players and inevitably starts trying to murder. It’s like Risk if you couldn’t see the rest of the board to start with and you could do something to improve the countries you conquered. I find them a lot of fun, and they tend to become quite addictive quite quickly as you guide your tiny little empire into bowling over the universe.

But yes, you are very clever to point out that the name isn’t all that imaginative. Blind Mind was a bit too busy doing some amazing goddamn work to spend time thinking of a name that didn’t make people giggle. Here, I’m actually going to just quote the features list and highlight the things that stand out to me.

o Vast, Procedurally Generated Galaxies
o Intricate Ship Design and Exciting Combat
o Unique Research System
o Easy to use interface, complex gameplay
o Engaging AI Opponents
o Extensive Modding Support
o Multiplayer: Co-Op, Team, and Free-for-all
o Original Soundtrack
o Much more to come!

So the galaxies are “vast”? Ha! Who cares about some stupid marketing speak bulls-

HOLY HELL

In case you didn’t notice, that’s a sliding scale from 1 solar system to thousands. Apparently the number it can handle is based on how powerful your computer is and how long you want to wait, but still: impressive.

It also has simple dedicated multiplayer. And although turn-based games can always be weird about that it seems to really focus on allowing drop-in drop-out so that if you like you can play for an hour and then hand an AI the keys to your kingdom if you’ve got to go. Speaking of the AI, they emphasize that it’s quite granular. Rather than being a simple “easy/medium/hard”, you can select from a variety of variables to alter, including whether or not it will cheat.

In addition to that, they’ve made modding incredibly easy, requiring limited coding knowledge and a functioning Notepad. That’s always a good sign from a tiny developer with some ambitious ideas, because there’s much more of a chance that dedicated fans will fill in gaps that they weren’t able to.

Now obviously without actually playing I can’t tell if it’s going to be any good. But the fact that this team is dedicated enough to develop a stunningly scalable system, make multiplayer a priority as well as making a good AI, and make it reasonably pretty has made me sit up and take notice.

August 18, 2010

Vertigo: Comics for Folks too Cool for Superheroes

Filed under: Comics — Tags: , , , — Chris @ 6:17 pm

Interested in reading comics, but worried that you might just be too hip for superheroes? Well, fear not, because your buddy Chris is here with some tips on how to get your comics reading right.

First off, try getting over yourself. If you’re reading comics, congratulations, you are no longer too cool for anything. If that still doesn’t work, hey, don’t worry about it. There are plenty of excellent series out there that have nothing to do with capes and crime fighting, and many of them can be found in DC’s creator-owned line, Vertigo.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t plenty of other great non-superhero comics to be found at other publishers, but Vertigo has what I would consider to be the most uniformly excellent line going today. In addition to many of DC’s darker, classic runs such as Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, and Grant Morrison’s Animal Man and Doom Patrol (technically superhero comics, I know), currently being republished underneath the Vertigo banner, many of the currently ongoing titles are well deserving of your attention as well. Furthermore, in a marketing maneuver my cash strapped pockets thoroughly endorse, Vertigo has priced the first collected trade volume of all of their series at only $9.99, providing much appreciated incentive to give their books a try. With that in mind, let’s take a look at just a few of the Vertigo comics I’ve been enjoying recently.

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August 16, 2010

SCOTT PILGRIM IS PRETTY GOOD, EH?

So I’ve been hearing a lot of talk about this young man Scott Pilgrim recently.

He’s a man of many talents! He plays bass, fights better than anyone else in the entire province, and stars in his own comic, game, and movie!

Scott Pilgrim’s 3 main things:

SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD


Is first because this is the only one you and your friends will bother with because you are so LAZY.

It is a movie! It stars young Michael Cera of tremulousness fame as the titular Scott Pilgrim. It is directed by Edgar Wright, of Spaced, Shaun of the Dead, and Hot Fuzz fame.

The movie is fast-paced, exciting, visually astonishing, creative, well-edited, well acted and straight-up balls to the wall awesome considered as a whole.

CAST:
Scott PilgrimRock out with your Scott out is a boy who wants to date this girl Ramona, but because her evil exes have formed a League, he’s bound by common law to defeat each of them in battle. He’s a nice guy, sort of. He’s oblivious, driven (sometimes), fun-loving, self-absorbed, naive, and easily infatuated. He’s also the protagonist!

Sex Bob-Omb Is Scott’s band, composed of two of his friends from high school, Kim PinesKim possible! and Stephen StillsThe talent (the talent). Kim and Scott dated once, he’s pretty sure everything’s cool now and she’s pretty sure she’d like him to die painfully. Stephen Stills is just concerned that Scott’s girl drama will cockblock the rock. It’s cool though, the band sucks anyway.

Knives ChauKnives to meet you! is Scott’s new girlfriend, and therefore rebound. She is also a 17 year-old Catholic schoolgirl, which says a lot about Scott. She is hopelessly in love with him, in spite of that being such a terrible idea.

Ramona Flowers
Ramooooonaaa rah-mo-naaaa is Scott’s new new girlfriend. Literally the girl of his dreams (she takes a shortcut through them to make deliveries on time), she is also one of the mystical Americans, badass, stylish, interesting, mysterious, and maybe just a bit fickle. She agrees to date Scott, but there’s a catch: in order to date Ramona, Scott must defeat…

The League of Evil Exes, who control the past and future of Ramona’s love life. There are seven of them, each more deadly and douchey than the last. ToddToooooddddd, for instance, is a vegan. Possessed of the telekinetic/telepathic powers imbued in all vegans at Vegan Academy, he’s a serious opponent for our hero!

The movie is spectacularly fun. It’s the best example of inserting cartoon aesthetics into real life that I’ve ever seen. It is literally a comic come to life, and the fact that sound effects appear in onomontopoeia on the screen is only part of that, it’s an aesthetic that suffuses the whole movie. It’s also a video game come to life, as evidenced by the “Vs” and fight voiceover that happens whenever a fight breaks out.

Scott Pilgrim lives in a world viewed through the lens of his childhood obsessions. Luckily, it seems that everyone else does too. There is, for instance, a complete lack of shock displayed by bystanders when defeated enemies turn into piles of Canadian coins.

The movie manages to one-up the book in some cases as well. Whereas the musical elements of the comic were suggested, in the movie they’re vibrantly alive. For instance, the “Bass Battle” between Scott and Todd becomes significantly more interesting when you can hear which of them is the better man. The bands floating through the story are all given a chance to show off their unique sounds, sucking in a variety of interesting ways. The opening of the film is set to Sex Bob-Omb practicing the incomprehensible, loud, poorly written, but very fun “Launchpad McQuack (working title)” in Stephen Still’s shitty apartment, and it sets the pace of the film. Some of the later fights are massively enhanced by the addition of a soundtrack, giving them an even greater sense of manic intensity.

Speaking of fights: the fights in this movie are amazing. They manage to incorporate cartoonish sensibility, top-notch martial art choreography, interesting gimmicks, a great sound-track, and a lot of humor each time. After the first fight, which included a bollywood nod, fireballs, Super Street Fighter 2 combos and reversals, and hot demon hipster chicks, I knew this movie was going to keep my interest.
K.O.!

You might be thinking in your tiny, tiny little brains “But wait, Troublethinking, I’m no ‘gamer’, I’m no ‘hep cat’, I’m not ‘pathologically Canadian’. How in the world will I understand this film, how in the world could I enjoy it?” Well, first of all: seven fucking awesome fights, and a lot of humorousness in between should be enough, you jerk. But, magnanimous that Troublethinking is, we brought a “test case” to see it: 60 years old, and as cool as the surface of the sun. He loved it simply for the creativity of presentation, despite knowing barely anything about the cultural touchstones the movie refers to with it’s visuals and sound. The point is: this is a girl-meets-boy story with a bunch of sweet fights, you don’t need a degree in 20-something to get what’s happening.

Go out and see this movie, you jerks. You waited until Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz were out of the theaters and now everyone knows you suck, this is your chance to make good.

SCOTT PILGRIM’S PRECIOUS LITTLE LIFE


Is a comic book. Well, it’s more of a sort of Manga, the Japanese small fat ones you see in huge rows at book stores. Also known as “the only type of comic book sold to people under 40”. The chain of events in the book is basically the same as in the movie, but decompressed and given some room to breathe. The intensity is lowered from a fever pitch to a pleasant clip with some moments of introspective discussion. It delves much more deeply into the pasts and emotional conditions of both Scott and those around him, and characters are developed more thoroughly. Though it lacks the sheer impact of the big-screen, the fighting is pretty awesomely presented and similarly hilarious.
K.O.!

The whole thing could be seen as a parody of love-story comics, and genre conventions, but it doesn’t really require a steady understanding of the form to enjoy. It’s a solid story about love, growing up, being useless, and being awesome.

There are six books total in the series:
Vol 1: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life
Vol 2: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
Vol 3: Scott Pilgrim & The Infinite Sadness
Vol 4: Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together
Vol 5: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The Universe
Vol 6: Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour

All of them are pretty sweet, and the nice part is they only cost $7 a pop. That is about as much as a lunch, a bad lunch.

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Movie: The Game

Select!

Scott Pilgrim also has a pretty awesome game out right now, coinciding with the movie. An even faster paced retelling of the story, the game focuses on the fighting first and foremost, the fanservice second and aftmost, and the rest is just gravy. It plays like old-school brawlers (The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle games are my reference points, but there are literally dozens of these sort of games for NES/SNES and other older systems). Now, for those of you who have no clue what the hell that means:

You and your friends each pick a character from 4 choices. Then, you walk from left to right. Sometimes, people jump out and try to beat you up. By tapping buttons for attack/defense/special at the right time, you beat the shit out of these people in style, and win the adoration of millions.
The Game!

It’s a lot of fun with friends, and everyone should give it a go. Plus, look at how pretty that is! You may remember those sprites from the cast list, they’re by Paul Robertson (WARNING: Not Safe For Work). Roberston is a Melbournean artist who makes truly amazing stuff with pixels.

The game has gotten a ton of praise from all corners, with reviewers generally agreeing that it’s a spectacular example of what modern sensibility can do with older game styles.

The game is only $15, the cost of an okay dinner! Split it between your roommates and let them play it with you. Right now it’s been released on the Playstation 3, on their “Playstation Network” downloadable games service. It will be out on the 25th of August for the X-Box 360 on their own downloadable games service “X-Box Live Arcade”.

Here is a quick preview!

BONUS ROUND: SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE ANIMATION

Dude! Check this thing out, a flashback in animation! Think of it as a quick prequel!

August 13, 2010

Comics are Boss: Hellboy is Amazing.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Durandal @ 8:13 am

HE'S GOT A GUN

Seriously though, grab Hellboy: Seed of Destruction, it is awesome and you will not be disappointed. All of Hellboy is pretty great, and the nice part is that you can jump in at any collection, for the most part. They all build on one another, but they all tell a reasonably self-contained story as well.

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