Trouble Thinking

June 29, 2011

Proun: Free, Fast, Fun, Fucking… Really Good

Filed under: Game News, Game Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , — Durandal @ 1:56 pm

So hey! Hey, I’m not really what you’d call a Race Cars Fan. I don’t know that you’d ever call anyone that, now that I think about it. I feel like there’s probably a less stilted way of saying it. No don’t tell me I don’t even care god.

The point is: I don’t love racing, but I love Proun more than your parents love you. It’s exhilaration in a tiny, simple and very beautiful package. It’s difficult to describe, but here:

That’s it. It’s a beautiful abstract landscape unlike anything you’ve seen set to a jazzy soundtrack that allows you to experience speed that makes your hair fly back. And the landscapes are really beautiful at full resolution with all the bells on. Simple, obviously, but crisp and bright and clean and man just nice. Little graphical tricks that don’t do much to improve games that are trying to mimic reality really make the tracks in Proun shine.

And that’s the whole thing! It’s an experience in trying to quickly react to changing environmental hazards in order to shave time off again and again until you can do the level such a ludicrous speed that you’re less reactive than precognitive. There are, of course, online leaderboards to track your progress. You can even race your friends locally, on the same computer and even same keyboard if you feel like it.

It's just, it's really pretty. Even more pretty in motion, too.

The online community has also already started churning out extra maps in new and strange abstract landscapes, something I hope continues to pick up pace. Hell, are you an artist? Make something for this and I guarantee you more people will be excited about your work than are currently pretending to be.

The best part about all this? It’s free! Well, actually it’s pay $whatyouwant. If you’re somehow completely unable to find joy in the gameplay video and screenshots, you can simply download the whole game and give it a go. If you’d like a neat little bonus track to play, you can donate money to the author. I gave $5, which seems frankly unfair. I may give more later! You should see the game for youself and give it the money you think it deserves. And if you don’t think it deserves any money, you’re dead inside.

June 27, 2011

Trenched! It’s a Good Time

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — Durandal @ 11:18 am

Trenched,a new game released on X-Box Live Arcade last Wednesday and retailing at $15, is great.

First of all, the writing is effective and funny in a manner games tend to ignore. It’s a lightweight game for certain, but it takes being lightweight seriously. There are jokes scattered about the mission briefing and in-game dialogue that pretty much always hit the mark. Not to mention Trenched has an amazing premise.

The story follows the adventures of the Mobile Trench Brigade in the 1920’s. They wage war on the evil Tubes, which are televisions. Like, actual living collections of television sets that form monstrous animal-like glowing abominations. See, in the world of Trenched, a mysterious Broadcast heard by two radio operators during the first World War allowed affected each of their minds. One, Dr. Farnsworth, was struck with the concept of Television, while the commander of the Mobile Trench Brigade was granted the idea for gigantic robot legs. But television has come too early! Humanity is unprepared for the information onslaught, particularly when it becomes an actual onslaught, with the now evil Dr. Farnsworth trying to bring people the “Wisdom of the Broadcast” by force.

Trenched is a “Mech” game. That is, it’s a game where you play as a gigantic walking robot, rather than a person. On the one hand, that’s kind of just a visual choice. After all, most protagonists in games have the constitution of a40 ton steel monstrosity anyway. But what makes mech games unique is the ability to customize your avatar of destruction in an engaging manner. Rather than deciding to be Marine #239948 with Assault Rifle and Sniper Rifle, you get to be one of dozens of possible combinations of Chassis, Legs, Emplacements,  and Weapons. And with a possible 6 weapon slots and 4 Emplacement slots, you can wind up with a very unique build. Ultimately, that build is a man standing in a chunk of WW1 trench on giant robot legs, calling down Emplacements that are then fired from a battleship offshore and set up by drilling into the ground on giant bits.

It’s an intensely silly idea, and one that makes a clear case for setting in games. The thing is, almost every Mech game decides that it has to be set in the future. See, the future will for some reason have walking robot tanks because I guess they’ll lose the technology of “wheels” and “tank treads” and choose the least sensible alternative outside of skis. Trenched was created by people smart enough to realize that it’s silly to bother with a “realistic” depiction when you can have an awesome one. Double Fine has been a staunch supporter of the idea of using unusual settings for a while now, to excellent effect. The past three games before Trenched took place in a turn of the century world of stacking dolls, a suburban neighborhood on Halloween, and a heavy metal album cover. I wish more developers would try some new things with setting. I can understand being conservative with gameplay, it’s hard to QA and a big gamble. But I refuse to believe it’s that big a risk to set games someplace other than Fantasy War, Future War, or Modern War.

If all Trenched had going for it was an interesting setting, I wouldn’t be telling you to buy it. The gameplay is a solid mix of shooter and Tower Defense. Each level, you’re tasked with defending one or more static object, usually buildings. Every few minutes, a new wave of evil Tubes arrives and begins their advance on said structure via a set path. That’s where you come in! Using your Trench guns you can take on the Tubes yourself, or you can call down a variety of stationary defensive Emplacements. Usually, you choose between having the emphasis be on your Trench or on the Emplacements before going into a mission. Smaller, weaker Trenches have more Emplacement slots and require less “scrap” material (gained by killing Tubes) to place them. Larger trenches can carry unique gigantic guns. There’s something incredibly satisfying about putting together a Trench that can totally lock down a given level using whichever method you find coolest.

The multiplayer is where the game really shines, though. With up to 4 people playing a single level together, you get the opportunity to take on a unique role within the team. For instance, when I played through several missions with some people online, I chose to be an Engineering mech with some AA capacity and useful support Emplacements. It took me a while to get going compared to my more hefty friends who could wade in from the word go, but once my Emplacements were up and I’d upgraded the ones my allies placed, I wound up being able to keep some lanes completely locked down. The fun part about online is that you can specialize in ways that would be suicide in the single-player. One of you can have two gigantic artillery emplacements and legs that allow you to dig in and reload faster to pound the enemy from afar. One can have nothing but 6 machine guns, able to tear small targets to bits. It multiplies the entertainment value of creating a custom mech by allowing you to define your place within a team as well as your playstyle.

There’s also a quite fun progression scheme, with your kills occasionally dropping “loot boxes” with different parts inside of them, and each kill getting you closer to a level-up that allows you to use new and interesting parts that are either useful or silly cosmetic upgrades for your Trench Marine. In a brilliant idea, every single person you play online with is included in your “regiment”, and the more any of you play, the more rewards are unlocked for all of you.

The only complaints I have with the game are the best sort: I want more! The game suffers from the fact that once you’ve progressed to the top levels, many of your parts simply cease being useful. There’s no real reason to use a Standard Artillery Cannon once you’ve unlocked “The Prince”, for instance. Either a wider variety of weapons or a system that was less about linear upgrades and more about different effects for different weapons would be useful in preventing this. The game is also a bit too easy in my opinion. Levels are designed to be tackled by almost any Trench build, which makes sense. Unfortunately, it means that when you build a particularly effective Trench, you can sleepwalk through many of the stages, particularly the earlier ones. The increase in difficulty that comes with multiplayer does a bit to alleviate this, but I wouldn’t mind an option to choose higher difficulties to really test my… metal. It also has a scoring system that’s simply Bronze/Silver/Gold. A more nuanced system that took into account the Trench you fought with could make for a lot of longevity. This is a game that could become a very fun exercise in Score Attack if they changed just a few elements, and I feel like that would carry it further than simply creating new pre-determined levels. Finally, the game is a tad short. It’s not unsatisfying, and I’ve already gone back to have fun with different builds, but my goodness would I kill for an Endless mode, or simply more missions.

If you’re a smart person, you’ll buy Trenched on XBLA today! Seriously, buy it. Double Fine needs your money more than you do.

June 22, 2011

Sarah Palin Quits Vacation Halfway Through

Filed under: News — Tags: , , , — Durandal @ 3:39 pm

That isn’t a joke, that’s a thing that actually happened. Former halfsies governor of Alaska Sarah Palin apparently cannot manage the stress of going on a paid vacation, so she cut it short.

She had a couple more stops planned, including one in New Hampshire where she was expected to maybe announce a run, but she did not. She quit, halfway through. I think she might actually be a sort of performance artist.

This is the most awesome thing.

Via TalkingPointsMemo

New Music Time!

Filed under: Music — Tags: , , — Durandal @ 10:25 am

I’m pretty sure my taste in music is awful, it’s just this gnawing in the back of my mind that tells me I’m listening to the horrible fourth-string ripoff of something that was passe 20 years ago.  Listening to music comes with a field of sonic regret briefly aligning waveforms to take the form of an unimpressed baby-boomer.

But I found a solution! Well, two solutions. One is realizing that all of you are so much fucking worse. I mean really, you guys. Jeez. No one is into Hanson anymore, that’s so 2009. The second part of the solution is listening to dinky local stations that play weird unpopular stuff. The one music rule I know is if I’ve heard of something before you, I am the winner.

So here’s a couple of songs I think are pretty fun from a band I think I’m now into called “The Parting Gifts“.

“Bound to Let Me Down” sounds pretty similar to early-ish Beatles stuff, it’s neat.

“Sleepy City” is upbeat and folksy and doesn’t overstay its welcome so that’s nice!

June 21, 2011

Cupcakes For Breakfast: Awesome

Filed under: Interesting Things, The Internet — Tags: , , , , — Durandal @ 12:20 pm

I just found myself entranced by the idea of this Instructable:

Look at that. Delicious.

It’s a Breakfast Cupcake: Espresso chocolate, with a waffle and caramelized bacon topper.

If we could just manage to figure out the Lunch and Dinner cupcakes, we could start having the best days in the history of humanity. The cupcake days.

Seriously though having now tried one I can tell you they taste awesome, the bacon really goes with the cupcake. Plus, they get you a bit of a coffee buzz, which is lovely. You should make your own! You can’t have any of mine, I don’t have any extras. Get out of here! GO!

Go, and make as many as you can!

Also noticed: the Instructables site is a bit shit. I get that they need to monetize content a bit, but man do I hate “pay for this and you’ll get what you probably assumed was the basics” services. Really? I get to see all the steps on one page if I subscribe? Oh be still my fucking heart.

June 20, 2011

Bulgarian Superhero Graffiti is Awesome

Filed under: Comics, Interesting Things, News — Tags: , , , — Durandal @ 2:10 pm

This is kind of excellent. Apparently popped up overnight recently in Bulgaria, done by a guy people are calling “The Bulgarian Banksy” because Banksy is the only graffiti artist any of us know.

I guess there’s a history of defacing this statue, because it’s of Red Army soldiers “liberating” Bulgaria. A bit of a chill in the relationship following the fall of the Soviet Union has made people less than respectful of the old monuments to the victorious.

Below the statue is written “Moving with the times”, presumably some sort of statement about communism and western imperialism and something or other but I ignored it because holy shit haha Wolverine, the Joker, Captain America and Santa oh man.

(Via the Daily Mail)

The Smallest Possible RPG/Awesome Old Game Cover Generator.

Filed under: Game News, Interesting Things, The Internet — Tags: , , , , — Durandal @ 11:42 am

So I just saw this on BoingBoing and I’m shamelessly acquiring it.

Rob Beschizza has created an old-old-school RPG called TinyHack that is played via a 9×9 pixel screen. It’s pretty simplistic, but interesting! It’s neat to see what you can do in terms of UI with only a few pixels to work with. Check it out:

Yeah, you're the dot. No, the white dot.

But more importantly, it’s also got a “Cool Old Game Cover Generator” that provides randomized generic backstory.

One of my favorites:

Halberd of the Manticore

Are you bad enough to command the Stone? The City needs you, hero!

The island kingdom of eveut is in havoc and dragons destroy all who come before them. Search for the Sword of Ouroboross in the forest of auixeu. Locate the Shield of Dreams in the tomb of aoxafe. Collect the 16 golden lights and find the key of destiny to unlock the secret of the water fortress, where the evil Loki gathers forces for the final attack.

Enter a world of pulse-pounding gameplay and fortune with Halberd of the Manticore , the most gruelling and challenging game of 1978. Remember, hero: Loki threatens to conquer the City!

June 15, 2011

June 14, 2011

Comics Are Boss: Xombi

Filed under: Comics — Tags: , , , , — Durandal @ 12:35 pm

I’ll do something more elaborate about my new favorite comic later, but here’s about all you should need to convince you Xombi is something interesting. More pretty pictures below the cut.


June 10, 2011

Commission a $20 Sketch to Help Girl Who Was Sexually Assaulted, Then Told To Cheer Attacker

Filed under: News — Tags: , , , , , — Durandal @ 8:59 am

This is Via Comics Alliance. Apparently a 16 year-old cheerleader from Silsbee High in Texas claims she was raped by a football/basketball star in 2008.

From the linked article in Ms.:

This really isn’t a he said/she said story. Two students outside the pool room–Patrick Steed and Richard Garrett –heard Hillaire say “Stop!” Unable to open the locked door, they retrieved Jacob Riley from another room. Riley again heard Hillaire say “stop,” so they broke through the door, only to find that three of the four athletes had fled through the window, breaking it in the process. The one young man who stayed behind told police, “I know I did not do anything so I didn’t run.”

Derek, one of the football players who fled, confirmed Hillaire’s account of the incident. He said that his teammate Christian Rountree “was holding her and was trying to talk her into coming in [to the pool room], so when they went back in I just followed.” At one point, he says, Bolton told the others to leave the room for five minutes. “We act [sic] like we left but we just hid under the pool table.” Then “Rakheem layed [sic] her on the floor and started to have sex and she start [sic] saying ‘stop.’ So Rakheem stopped.”

When the rescuers burst in, they found Hillaire lying partially under the pool table, half-clothed and crying. Said Patrick Steed, “All she had on was her black bra. She rolled over and reached for her clothes that were under the pool table. She was crying and appeared upset.” Garrett added to police, “I believed Hillaire had been raped.”

He was allowed to play after being accused, and no disciplinary action was taken by the school in the immediate aftermath. The young woman then decided that she would, if he was going to be allowed back on the teams, not cheer specifically for him during a free throw. Not the team, she was okay with that, just not shouting “put it in” at the person she says raped her. A really way more than generous thing to do in this situation. So obviously, the school told her to stop making waves, stop going to the lunchroom and not attend homecoming. Also, they threw her off the cheerleading squad. When she went to court, they won. Now she’s been ordered to pay $45,000 in legal fees to the school. Oh, and the man accused of raping her was let off with a misdemeanor and a suspended sentence. Also known as “not actually suffering a single consequence”.

People in the town have decided that she was probably just being a slut and she should be ashamed for being such an awful person and going and getting herself raped. This is actually a quote:

She had no shame. … She never seemed upset. She acted like it was no big deal. … I wouldn’t have told people what happened. … I wouldn’t have openly said, ‘This is what happened, blah, blah, blah.’

Yeah! I would have been way more demure when discussing the man who forced me to have sex with him. I would have covered my face with a handkerchief or something at a minimum.

So, there’s an illustrator, Jason Ho, who decided that sounded cosmically terrible for a young person to go through, and has decided to try to help out with those fees. Because he’s an illustrator, he’s decided to do so by putting up $20 commissions and donating the money he makes to her family. So that’s a decent reason to grab some original art of whatever thing you’re into, I would think.

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