Trouble Thinking

July 14, 2012

Steam Summer Sale 2012: Day 3

What to get, what to ignore? Listen to me, I’ll tell you … more!

-Tropico 4: Get Tropico 3 for $2.50 instead. Just about the same exact thing, fun little Sim City sort of game where you’re an island dictator. Good times! $7.50

-Two Worlds II: Silly name aside, I’ve heard good things about this game from a bunch of people. It seems solidly in “flawed gem” territory. Give it a go if you’ve either already played or can’t afford Skyrim. $7.50

-Frozen Synapse: Buy this game, buy it now. It’s great, interesting, very worth a shot. Simultaneous tactical turn-based combat is an underappreciated genre. $5

-Indie Bundle III: Well, if you’ve still not got braid, obviously. I also dig Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet. Runespell, Bunch of Heroes, and Bit.Trip Beat are also on offer, but I’ve not heard a ton about them, Runespell I think was eeeeh. Kind of seems like these packs always have a few duds. $10

-Skyrim: I’ve heard it’s good! If you’re into open-world RPG action, it’s the king at the moment. $30 is a bit steep during a big sale, but now’s the time to grab it if you want it, it won’t be lower than $30 for a long time.

-Dirt Showdown: I cannot comment at all on racing games. Sooo… do what you will. $25

-Borderlands: Great fun, good with friends, a bit samey and has both the best and the worst loot (I spent half the game with one gun, because it was the best gun I rolled all game), and the worst ending. But grabbing it and the expansions would be great if you’ve got some friends to play with. $5

-Orcs Must Die!: GET THIS. It’s an excellent tower-defense/action game that maintains a high level of fair challenge the entire way through, gives you reason to make use of all the tricks available, is nicely strategic, and the right side of funny. Great game, for $3.75 you’re an idiot if you don’t pick it up.

-Dead Island: I have heard it described as a solid dungeon-crawler with Zombies but… I mean I don’t know. I think it’s probably fine, this is just the game where we all decided Zombies were played out. Probably a bunch of fun if you still think Zombies are neat! $10

Flash Deal You Need:

Nah, not today. They’re all fine but not setting the world on fire.

July 13, 2012

Steam Summer Sale 2012: Day 2

What to buy, what not to buy, you need help I know”

-Payday: The Heist: If you’ve got friends to play it with, I’ve heard it’s a very fun L4D clone. Probably worth a look for you and your pals at $5.

-From Dust: I got it! It got acceptable reviews that mentioned a few issues, but nothing major. For $3.75 obviously worth a shot.

-Anno 2070: Unless you really really need a near-future Anno, I don’t know that I’d bother. The other Anno games are great, and still cheaper than $25.

-The Binding of Issac: Is amazing. For $1.25, you’re going to get a lot of game. I’d go for it.

-Tribes: Ascend Starter Pack: No! You don’t pay for free games. Let other people finance FTP with their $5, you’re no rube.

-Indie Bundle II: Is not setting my world on fire. Maybe E.Y.E alone? It’s very weird, worth a look if you’re into that, but the pack might not be worth $10.

-Warhammer 40K Space Marine: Fun and simple third-person shooting. A bit repetitive, but it’s just a ridiculous, gory good time for the majority of play. Well worth $7.50.

-Sonic Generations: Well, if you’re one of the people who were waiting years for a decent Sonic Game… yay! This is it. If you’re anyone else, feel free to continue forgetting who Sonic was. $10.

-Max Payne 3: I’ve heard good things about the shooting mechanics, but honestly grab Space Marine and wait for the price to drop below $30 if you must shoot things in third person.

Flash Deal You Need:

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light: The best Lara Croft game, and one of my top fun-givers of the past few years.

July 12, 2012

Steam Summer Sale 2012: Day 1

Filed under: Uncategorized — Durandal @ 6:05 pm

What should you buy? You should buy the things I damn well tell you to but. To wit:

-Crusader Kings 2: Probably worth a go if you’re into big turn-based strategy games. It’s got a great system whereby you actually guide a dynasty of rulers, meaning your current beloved king can age, die, and leave squabbling bastards fighting for the remnants of a once-great empire. It’s pretty cool! $10

-Total War Shogun 2: A Total War game. So you know, strategic map, battles with giant armies that look cool. Apparently improved strategic and battle AI, certainly looks incredibly pretty, not a bad price at all. $7.50

-Portal 2: Fucking, right. You’re reading about it but don’t know it’s worth $5. Sure.

-Might and Magic Franchise: Some people have loved all of them, most loved 4 most, I believe, the newest one has gotten no particularly poor reviews but didn’t set the world on fire. Niche enough that you probably know if you want it. $25

-Indie Bundle 1: A shitload of good games. If you own fewer than 3, buy this. $10

-Call of Duty: MW3: Do not even think about this, bucko. No! There are neater things. Have you heard about Spec Ops: The Line? They apparently did some neat shit with the storytelling. Modern Warfare for $30? Christ, you can play TF2 free. No.

-Ridge Racer: Unbounded. I have actually not got a single opinion on this, $25.

-Terraria: For $2.50 it’s probably worthwhile. Like sideways minecraft with way more items. Neat procedural shit and a whole lot of it.

-Legend of Grimrock: I’m getting it! $6 for a pretty sweet looking old-school dungeon crawler. Everything happens in real-time, but square-by-square. It’s very neat looking, it’s gotten a shitload of positive reviews, and it seems just the right mix of very tough and very fair.

Current Flash Sales:

Probably won’t keep up with these every 8 hours but:

-Mafia 2: Some people loved this, but mostly only if they weren’t expecting GTA: The 30s.$7.50

-Spacechem: The Best Puzzle Game, $2.50

-Rayman Origins: Has received undiluted praise from all corners. If you like platformers, grab it. $15.

-Deus Ex: Human Revolution: Very, very good. Get it. $7.50

July 11, 2012

Endless Space: Spacey Good

Endless Space came out last week, it’s made by Amplitude Studios and is pretty neat! It is a great Space 4X that you should give a try because it’s like $30 and what like you’re really so flush with Space 4X games that you can’t afford to try another? I mean I guess Sins of a Solar Empire, sort of, but that really boils down more to RTS mechanics than 4X mechanics.

But let’s talk a bit more about Endless Space and why it’s worth a shot.

Endless Space is a game about taking control of an alien race (or plain old humans if you’re boring), and guiding them from humble beginnings in their home system to becoming a massive Galactic Empire. You begin with a single colonized planet, a colony ship, and a scout ship. To accomplish galactic domination, you need to do several things. First of all, you need to Explore the galaxy, finding out what planets are nearby, what routes connect to them, where the wormholes are (as we all know wormholes are pretty common in Game Space) and whether or not there are any nearby alien races. As you explore, you’ll find new planets that look just as good as home, if not better. That’s where you drop the Colony ship! You basically keep doing this at each new planet that looks decent. At first you can only colonize reasonably temperate planets, but you’ll unlock the ability to colonize asteroids and gas giants later. At first your new Outposts will be a bit low-producing, and they won’t expand your imperial influence, but over the course of around 30 turns at first and 10-15 later Outposts turn to Colonies that may eventually outstrip even your home system in production.

As you Expand further, you’ll find new resources to Exploit. In Endless Space resources are divided into those that are necessary for production of certain improvements and ship systems and those that provide useful benefits for your imperial economy. Access to a resource allows any connected system to use them, as well as allowing you to trade any excess to other races. If you manage to get 4 or more of any resource, you get a unique bonus, like +60% to the movement speed of your ships. As you grow, you’ll research new technology, which will allow you to build new structures that usually serve to either increase your production or increase your influence, with some having unique effects based on the layout of your system (+2 production per colonist on Gas Giants for instance). When you inevitably meet other races, you can talk them up a bit. You always start in “cold war” which means that so long as you’re not in each other’s respective influence areas you can fight, take over Outposts, generally be dicks without consequence. You can choose to make Peace official, though, and eventually start trade agreements and alliances. Pretty standard Civ-style diplomacy.

And that’s it! Explore, Expand, Exploit resources, research and conduct diplomacy and oh also murder like most of the people you meet. Combat in Endless Space is interesting. It’s a compromise between the Civilization style of just having stacks hit each other with rules governing who wins, and the Master of Orion method where you actually control fights. You design ships by choosing from different size “platforms” and then attaching whatever modules (usually weapons and shields) that are going to be most useful. Then you produce one ship at a time, stack them together in groups of 5 (with research you can increase that number) and send them to different systems. If there’s an enemy ship stack in that system, you blow them to hell. If you take manual control of the fight, you see a nifty automated space battle that you can use “cards” to affect in 3 stages. Each card counters some other type of card, so you can play Barrier (increases ship armor and health) to counter Sabotage (decreases accuracy), and you come out of it shooting straight and nice and well protected for that battle stage. There are three stages, and three weapon types with each weapon favoring a certain stage. Kinetic weapons do well up close, lasers at medium range, and missiles hit very hard right at the end of the first stage. All fights take place at systems, there’s no intercepting fleets en-route. You can, however, prevent someone from leaving a system by setting a fleet to “intercept” at that system. It doesn’t mean they need to attack, or you do, but it does mean that they can’t move their ships unless they take out the intercepting fleet.

So all this hangs together pretty damn well! There’s really not much else to say, if that sounds like fun to you you will definitely like the game. There are a few weird issues that I do think they could do with fixing up. First, the game isn’t “turn-based” in the sense that each player gets to move, then the other, it’s actually simultaneous turn-based. So it can be hard to tell when a thing is going to happen. You might see enemy fleets seem to move during your own turn because you’ve taken a ship off Intercept and suddenly that move order from last turn is viable and the enemy leaps right out of the system where you thought you had them trapped. There’s also an issue with the combat, in that the enemy AI doesn’t seem to quite make decisions fast enough to fight effectively. It heavily favors Kinetics and Missiles, which means that if you take the cheapest lasers, and put them all on the cheapest ships, you can usually overwhelm their ships (as you might be defenseless, but so are they against lasers) with fleets of shitty craft. Building up to the super-cool Dreadnaughts doesn’t necessarily grant enough of an advantage. Dreadnaughts don’t have any real unique ability to overwhelm smaller ships or provide fleet bonuses or anything, so they wind up being the equivalent of 6 shitty ships, which are all cheaper and can be thrown up once a turn. But this does seem like something that can be fixed with a few data changes.

The other issue is that frankly diplomacy is too easy! You basically can just be a nice neighbor, and suddenly you’re on your way to victory because it’s 3 against 1 in any war. There’s no real conflict unless you’re directly next to each other early on, fighting for planets. I wouldn’t mind slightly more in-depth consequences of allying with someone, or manners of frustrating your enemies beyond simply denying them the pleasure of your company.

Also, I haven’t actually played Multiplayer yet, so I can’t comment on that.

The nice part is that between the Games2Gether voting system and the forums, they seem to be addressing these issues pretty quickly. So basically, definitely buy this game if any of the previous description appeals to you at all. It’s pretty as hell, it’s fun, and the issues with it are pretty minor at this point.

 

Edit: Oh and it is $30, so for goodness sake it’s a dang budget half-price game. Can you believe that? Look at the screens and say that looks like a budget game. It’s beautiful.

July 4, 2012

Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3 is Good.

So I’m a fan of the comic Penny Arcade. I’ve played all three Penny Arcade games, and this is the first one I can recommend to people who are not fans of the comic.

Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3(OTRSPOD3) is what you remember RPGs being like on the SNES, but with most of the horrible bits surgically extracted. I say surgically extracted, because the genius-types at Zeboyd Games have managed to remove all the little cruft that you thought was integral to an old-school RPG without damaging a dang thing. In fact, when they sewed it all back together it wound up being a lot more wonderful than the Final Fantasy standard model.

The gameplay is solid as hell, with battles usually being nicely-paced affairs. Each character has a certain speed rating, and that determines how quickly they’ll take their next turn. Until you start to really specialize, this usually boils down to a few of your characters going, then a few of the enemies. It gets more interesting as the game progresses and, for instance, your insanely-fast character is able to throw a heal down on a critically injured ally in the time between the enemy selecting their action and actually attacking.

You begin with a single “class”, which provides a small set of skill-attacks to perform and often some passive bonus to a stat. As you progress, unlock both more classes and eventually 2 extra slots which allow you to mix and match for an extensive skill collection. You rarely use anything but skills to attack, as the skills use MP that counts up rather than down as the battle progresses. So every turn you can use a skill costing 1 MP, or do a normal attack or defend and wait for your 2 MP skill. Until the late game, few skills cost more than 2, and some even cost nothing.

During fights, you can also use items, which heal, cure sickness, damage enemies, etc. Rather than purchasing “a potion” and slapping 99 in your inventory, you purchase a use. So if you’ve bought 5 potion uses, you can use a potion 5 times every battle, with them being restored (along with health) after every fight. I cannot tell you how much better an idea this is than the RPG standard-bearer of having to purchase a cruise ship’s worth of supplies to dole out over fights, greedily hoarding each one because who knows when you might need them? It removes none of the tactical decision-making, but makes the game a hell of a lot less annoying.

Speaking of annoying: no random battles! You see every enemy on screen, and you can decide who to engage when. In a move I’ve been wishing for since I was introduced to the genre, they’ve removed the grind. That isn’t to say there aren’t a lot of battles, there are hundreds! But instead of being a stunning number of randomly-generated beasties repeated over and over until you’re leveled enough for the next area, they’re more a series of timed puzzles. You’ve normally got maybe 10 turns max to kill someone before they get you due to each turn increasing the Enemy Power bonus, so you tend to figure it out or croak quickly. And if you do croak? No problem! You’re only kicked back to where you were, no lost progress. It’s the first RPG where I’ve spoken to people about “that one fight with 2/2/2 Swipewriters/Visor Misers/Fleshreapers” instead of a boss. Because that’s it, that’s the one fight with that enemy configuration. It’s incredibly smart and exactly what every game of this sort should have figured out long ago.

The writing is also top-notch tongue in cheek shit the way I like it. Enemy designs and descriptions are all funny, as are the classes and skills. I would say the dialog is probably not necessary for enjoyment of the mechanics, but it’s well considered and a pretty good Cthulu-ish storyline of vast cosmic malevolence and hidden motives.

The only real issues I have are with the manner in which Zeboyd accidentally recreated the horrible old menus at the same time they recreated other aspects of the old-school. The menu system is servicable, but unintuitive. Nothing auto-saves, ever. Which can be a problem in an RPG, no matter how often you’re reminded to save often. You cannot view all the classes easily, you can only select the “view” command on classes that are equipped. Many skills are stat boosters, but you have no way of telling how much they actually do, because stats aren’t displayed in any manner during a battle. There’s no real explanation of the keyboard controls, which left me randomly pecking to find that “q” opens the entirely separate “quit menu”. A lot of little UI issues could do with improvement. BUT Zeboyd knocked this one out of the park. It’s officially some of the most fun I’ve had with the genre, which says a lot when technically you’re making a parody. It’s the “Shaun of the Dead” of RPGs.

June 27, 2012

There Is A Magic Machine That Will Always Beat You At Rocks, Paper, Scissors

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Durandal @ 1:28 pm

Stolen direct from BoingBoing.net (who stole it from /.), this thing is just too cool not to mention briefly. Look at this! Researchers at UTokyo’s Ishikawa Oku Lab made a sweet RPS robot!

It looks at first blush like it’s out-predicting you, but it’s totally not! It’s just waiting for you to move with a high-speed camera, then snapping out its fingers really quick when you’re settled. That is the coolest. I am slightly disappointed that it’s not some sort of super-robot mind-freak machine predicting your every move, but I’m also more interested in replacing my limbs with robot parts than ever!

It only takes a single millisecond for the robot to recognize what shape your hand is in, and just a few more for it to make the shape that beats you, but it all happens so fast that it’s more or less impossible to tell that the robot is waiting until you commit yourself before it makes its move, allowing it to win 100% of the time. You might be thinking that you could fool the system by changing your mind halfway through, but my guess is that the hand and vision system are faster than your reflexes could ever be, and that it would be trivial for the robot to adapt to any creative moves that happens on the human end.

June 21, 2012

Gaming and Women

Okay that’s an ambitious title I can in no way back up. I can’t really speak to the whole experience of women with games. But there’s been some shit stirred recently that caught my interest and made me slightly frustrated with the way conversations about ‘geeky’ media and feminism go. So first off: the very capable media critic Anita Sarkeesian has been doing this Feminist Frequency thing for a while and it’s quite nice! It’s bite-sized explanations of a lot of shit everyone should probably have a handle on. She likes games, so she decided to do similar explanatory videos about tropes and women in games. Basically, here’s what is meant by “damsel in distress”, here’s why some people take issue with it being a cliche, maybe shape up slightly?

So, she got just craploads of death threats and rape threats and … well one guy said he’d never date her which isn’t really a “threat” per se but suffice it to say her entry into the ‘gaming community’ proper with this video series was met immediately with some pretty harsh fucking words. Now, in a nice countermove here Kickstarter asking for $6,000 got funded for $158,917. So, that’s nice. But the thing is, the fact that the reaction to seeing the word ‘feminist’ next to the word ‘videogames’ got a significant portion of the internet crazy mad is not great. There’s also the fact that a rather large number of people responded to her discussing that with ‘Well that’s just how things are you know? You have to let it roll off your back.’ Which ignores the fact that in a lot of circles being inundated with rape and murder threats is not considered the cost of doing business. And it probably shouldn’t be!

Which leads to this interesting post on the blog of one Foz Meadows: rape culture and gaming. Also, on Pandagon: Geeks, You Have a Problem. Basically, there’s a simultaneous assumption by geeks that we’re too smart to be privileged or misogynistic or racist or whatever but if you want to change a goddamn thing about anything we will cut you. After arguing at a ridiculous length about this for years, I feel like it mostly comes down to people who are nice deciding that means they cannot do a bad thing. Well, no that goes too far obviously nice people realize if they just shot a dude it’s probably bad. But I’ve met a hell of a lot of nice people who don’t find using homophobic slurs particularly bad. It just means ‘stupid’, man! Get over it! It’s different! Anyway point is I will destroy mountains before I stop saying this one word I got in the habit of saying for no reason.

Nice people are extremely stubborn when you ask them to change any behavior that cannot be directly demonstrated to harm another person the moment it happens. Because for fuck’s sake, they had a groove. Now, you’re asking them to reevaluate everything and maybe never do some of the things they’re used to doing. That seems pretty mean! So feminist complaints about gaming culture are reduced to the nagging of shrill harpies who just don’t get us. Look, if you’re made uncomfortable by the unrelenting misogyny on display at tournaments, or the trailer for Hitman and the new Lara Croft game having an attempted rape in it but I’m not it sounds like you’re just a whiner. It often gets shifted to a censorship discussion because geeks feel more comfortable in that arena. But the thing is, no one is interested in censoring a goddamn thing. Ms. Sarkessian isn’t making a series of videos about ‘what games need to be destroyed’, she’s making a series of videos about what tropes exist, why they exist, and what that means for female gamers. The exploration of the concept that things may not be perfect is seen as an attack worthy of a pretty outsized response. And of course, the nice kind good people of the geek community say well that’s just 4chan they’re crazy I would never do that but anyway it kind of sounds like you’re just being whiny I never had a problem don’t censor games I like here’s a few examples of good characters that totally disprove everything they’re just doing what sells! They’re totally on your side they can’t stand those damn commenters either but have you ever thought about how all these weak-ass arguments prove you should shut up?

Look I love Bayonetta, it is the best. But I don’t think the hair-fetish shit was really the reason I had so much fun with it. I’m amazed that in a genre of media so much more defined by mechanics than narrative there’s such push-back against the ideas presented by feminist critiques.

Also worth reading: Beyond Barbie and Mortal Kombat. One of the pieces I found really interesting talked about how gender-neutral games were until some pretty random events kicked them into being a male-centric thing to do.

Also: Women beat 18-34 men for tech adoption and purchasing power. In case you talk to someone trying out that “just what sells” pile.

June 14, 2012

Red Letter Media Talks About Prometheus

Filed under: Movies — Tags: , , — Durandal @ 4:29 pm

Oh also, this is pretty funny.

They liked a lot more than me in their full review, and do correctly state that yeah compared to basically a lot of films, this was wonderful and shouldn’t be getting that much scorn… but I do like the giant list of little gripes.

Prometheus: Pretty, But Empty.

Filed under: Movies — Tags: , , , , , , — Durandal @ 3:22 pm

So this is going to be pretty spoiler-y if you care about that. But I want to say right now: you shouldn’t, because there’s nothing about Prometheus to actually spoil.

So I’ve gone over this a lot since I saw the movie Saturday, and I think I’ve boiled down why I really didn’t find it that enjoyable. First and foremost is that I went in with pretty high expectations. I watched Alien the night before, and I was really excited to see another tight, interesting sci-fi film that maybe expanded upon the intriguing mysteries of Alien a little while focusing a bit more on exploration than on sheer body-horror. For all that Alien is remembered as a “slasher movie in space”, it was a much more tightly focused and interesting exploration of a strange new landscape and the dangers it contains than any of the more bombastic sci-fi that has come after. The visual effects supervisor of the movie “Moon” actually has a great little bit on why the Alien script is so well-done.  Prometheus is badly done in equal measure to how excellently Alien was crafted.

Before I get into just non-stop griping, I will say that Ridley Scott is a master of visuals and cinematography. He’s capable of making every single shot look amazing, as well as creating a surprisingly believable futuristic world (besides the spaceship having a fucking rec room and basketball court NO no griping). Beyond a few silly “transparent things with holo-graphs” and “generally using holograms just for the fuck of it” that so plagues modern movie SF, he sticks to believably chunky surroundings and very pretty but functional-looking space-suits. He also uses color in a way I don’t actually have the vocabulary to describe properly. He doesn’t just slap a filter over a scene, he makes sure that light sources line up in exactly the necessary way. So yeah, he’s great! The guy who is not great is the script writer, Damon Lindelof, the same dude who did LOST. And Ridley Scott for thinking any of the script was good and then filming it.

There are multiple lengthy and funny discussions of the exact nature of the many small terrible bits of the script, like how they take their helmets off maybe an hour into their expedition, even though it makes nothing simpler. These are all great, and you should read them. My problem with the film can be summed up quicker, though: it did not matter. No individual mattered, no event mattered, and no theme mattered. Three examples stand out. Spoilers, obviously. The first is Extreme X-Games Archaeologist. Boyfriend/Husband/whatever to the female lead. He gets poisoned with black goo by David the android for… well for no real reason. You could invent a clever reason, maybe, but that would be all on you. Following this poisoning, he’s burnt alive by a flamethrower in order to protect ship quarantine. Following that absolutely nothing and no one ever references, mentions, or as far as I can tell thinks about him. Including his significant other. I’m not the best person, but should my significant other get cooked alive in front of me, I would like to think that my thoughts will occasionally turn to the trauma of that event. Following the cookery, the female lead is on a surgery table blah blah Terrifying Demon Pregnancy! So she cuts it out in a well acted but intensely silly/gory sequence, and heads back to the rest of the ship. No one mentions that again. She occasionally holds her lasered open abdomen as she makes flying jumps. At one point, two crew members are trapped in the cave system thing that the team is exploring. A chuckle is had, and they are told to stay there for the night. Obviously they die. No one seems super perturbed about this afterward. When one of the dead men comes back as a zombie, he murders a half dozen nameless, faceless crew members. The captain roasts him back to death. None of that is ever mentioned again, as why would anyone ever bring up what has to be the most terrifying thing ever to happened to them?

The little stuff makes the movie annoying, but it’s that schizophrenic tapestry that really kills it. I was hoping for more a “Rendevous with Rama” vibe, exploration of the vast unknowable, trying to figure out as much as you can before realizing you’ll never get it all. A contrast with the scared truckers of Alien, but with hubris comes the fall and oh noooo they didn’t realize X would Y or whatever. They completely ditch that, and make the scientific exploration worse than the average sci-fi original movie about ice volcanoes. In place of that, they have many more gory scenes of carnage, none of which actually lead anywhere. No one reacts, no one even flinches. So what if half the crew was just ripped in half? We didn’t know them, and the captain doesn’t seem to give a shit! So what if at the end the captain and Nameless Crewmen A and B sacrifice themselves? We never got to know them, and they don’t have a chance to be humanized at any point in a two goddamn hour movie. You could cut scenes at random without altering the flow of the film at all. Almost all of the characters could be ditched, and you’d never notice.

The ostensible reason for the pacing and plotting issues is that this movie is concerned not with lowly things, but with high and interesting questions about life, the universe, and everything. The only issue is that, like LOST before it, the movie seems to believe that raising those questions is exactly as thought-provoking as attempting to answer them. It is not. “Why are we here?” is not the end of you philosophical discussion. And the annoying bit is that if it focused more on the actual small scale human element it would probably do a better job of conveying interesting answers! Alien wasn’t great about characters, but it had many little moments of characterization, and the decisions made by crew members reflected their personalities well. In “Alien”, the lowest man on the totem pole mouths “the money” to his more charming friend, so they can see if it’s possible to upgrade to full shares. We get an idea of the chain of command, of the interpersonal style and conflicts of the crew, and of the overarching corporatism that will ultimately kill most of the people on board. In “Prometheus” a man angrily states “I’m only in this for the money!” at someone saying hello, as it is the first time they’ve met. Almost characters show evidence of interpersonal relationships and most characters lack a discernible motive for any of their actions.

Jeez, that was longer than I meant it to be. Basically, this is up there with Inception and Avatar as a big, beautiful sci-fi movie that so focuses itself on “big themes” that it forgets how little those matter when your characters are disposable cardboard and the script is just egregiously bad.

June 7, 2012

Just buy the Humble Bundle V

Oh my goodness for real just pick this one up. I can say that with confidence having, like a damn fool, already bought all the frigging games in this bundle. It’s amazing. I’ll give you a rundown, though.

LIMBO: Neat, slightly full of itself platformer/puzzle game with a very striking visual style. It’s good, it’s quick, you’ll die a bunch to cheap stuff for a shock but it’s cool.

Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP: Okay I lied I haven’t bought all of them, but I’ve heard good things about this!

Amnesia: The Dark Descent: It’s really good! It’s not quite as pants-crappingly scary as the internet has decided it must have been, but it’s definitely one of the top horror games. Played in the dark with headphones it can get pretty close to as scary as people joke about it being!

Psychonauts: Great, charming platformer about a boy in a summer camp for psychics made by Double Fine of Having Tim Schafer fame. It’s more than worth a look, even if the collectibles were rubbish.

Bastion: I’ve written about this! It’s the best fucking game! Seriously just pay your $8 for this, it’s beautiful and moving and has a neat narrative conceit and fun gameplay and man maybe I should replay it. Remember to get this, you need to pay more than the average!

Lone Survivor: Aaaagh I’m a liar! But! I did play the demo. Did a surprisingly good job of wringing horror out of pixels, so check it out! Remember to get this, you need to pay more than the average!

Braid: Not half as clever as it wishes it was, it’s still pretty frigging clever. A puzzle game masquerading as a platformer, it’s all about manipulating time in different manners to progress. Super fun, really worth a playthrough. Reasonably neat meta-story thing too, but mostly just play the puzzles and leave it be. Remember to get this, you need to pay more than the average!

Super Meat Boy: The best platformer the world has ever seen. Tough but fair but SO TOUGH. Really fun times. Remember to get this, you need to pay more than the average!

There you go! Pick it up, you cannot possibly be disappointed by these games.

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