Archive for August, 2009

Thought I’d give the heads up on this interview over on a hardy developer’s journal (spotted on the Sunday Papers over on Rock, Paper, Shotgun) as I liked Downfall, a horror adventure game developed by Remigiusz Michalski and am more than interested to see some more equally sick and twisted games in the future from him. This interview dwells more on Downfall and how it came to be, but there is a small mention of a future game: Michalski says it will be even gorier than his first game. Overall an interesting peek into the head of an indie developer.

Read Full Post »

The tales of Guybrush Threepwood, mighty pirate, continue with the second episode. I rather liked the launch of the series of game so I expected a lot from Siege of Spinner Cay. In some ways it fulfilled those expectations but still fell short in many ways.

First off Launch of the Screaming Narwhal ended in very exciting circumstances with Guybrush’s throat threatened by the blade of a mysterious pirate hunter spoken of only in hushed whispers, if at all. Right off the bat the excitement I felt at finding out who Threepwood’s mysterious assailant was, got somewhat diminished by noticing that she was not only a huge fan of our pirate hero, but also poor at swordfighting and most importantly not menacing at all. Like the pirate hunter, the whole game suffers from a sense of let-down.

Another way Siege of Spinner Cay dulled my excitement was that right after the intro sequence to the game, Elaine Marley, Guybrush’s wife, appears unscathed, as if they’d never been separated. I thought Guybrush might have had some saving to do or what not, but Elaine apparently can take care of herself (unlike some videogame heroines I might mention). I’m not undermining videogame women here, but before starting to play I felt finding out what happened to Elaine was one of the exciting things to happen in the episode. By bringing her in almost right away cleaned the table for the story in a way and then had to bring up some suspense again.

Maintaining excitement is another one of my gripes with the game. I felt the plot didn’t proceed very quick and a lot of the time I felt like saying get on with it to the game. This is because of the game’s puzzles. Compared to Launch of the Screaming Narwhal there is a big leap in difficulty. Some of the puzzles required great heaps of luck like one involving a broken mast and an island containing a rubber palm tree. Said puzzle required noticing the palm tree on an earlier visit and then going to the island  later when there really wasn’t any incentive to go there. Needless to say, I kept referring to a walkthrough way too many times. Having spent so much time being stuck at times the story went on in short bursts which messed with the pacing of the game.

When I wasn’t stuck and the story was progressing I did enjoy myself a lot though. The dialogue is witty and especially the character of Le Chuck has a lot of charm, so much so that he stole the show everytime he was in a scene. Guybrush even seemed rather jealous at times to the ex-Ghost Pirate Captain and now regular good (if rather dumb) pirate.  There’s also the matter of a flower that Le Chuck handed to Elaine in episode one to consider. Perhaps Guybrush has something to worry about there?

I hope Lair of the Leviathan, the third episode, turns out to be as exciting as the ending to Siege of Spinner Cay would entail. At least we should see something different to the islands of the first two episodes, unless Leviathan has swallowed one of them. Perhaps it will be the seaside village of Jetsam that we find ourselves wandering around next time around.

And here the short teaser for the game featuring one of my favorite characters: the pyrite parrot. Such witty puns he throws.

Read Full Post »


From the small indie studio Zombie Cow comes the adventure game Time Gentlemen Please. As can be quessed from the name the game revolves around time travel. The plot continues from where it was left in Ben There, Dan That, the first game in the series. The story sums up how amusing Time Gentlemen Please is: Ben and Dan are just a normal pair of dudes until their tv-antenna stops responding and they decide to make a new one with a coathanger which they hold out of the window. For some reason said coathanger tranports them onto an alien ship, from which they then escape, only to find out that the coat-hanger was all a part of a plan by a Ben and a Dan from the future, who had become rulers of the world through a plan that Ben and Dan from the past are an important part of. This happened in the earlier game Ben There, Dan That(available free). In the beginning of Time Gentlemen Please Ben and Dan decide to stop the trouble from where it started by stopping coathangers from ever being invented. Later they find themselves in the World War II, except now the Nazis have an army of talking cloned dinosaurs at their disposal(the swastika replaced by a coathanger for some reason). The plot is bat-crazy, but hilarious. Even if I haven’t played Ben There, Dan That yet I was laughing very soon into the game.

At points amusing, sometimes having you grinning dirtily and even laugh-out-loud funny occasionally, this game is loads of fun. I haven’t played through it in its entirety but can recommend it already. Usually puzzles are a big problem for me, but in this game I haven’t been stuck longer that five minutes at a time. The solutions for the puzzles have made sense so far and one involving two rats, the other dead and the other alive (but extremely horny) even had me a bit shocked (also grinning dirtily). The story is funny and the puzzles don’t get in the way, so what’s not to like?

At professors flat

This being a small indie title low production values might annoy some. The game is very stylistic though as you can observe from the screenshots. Perhaps my biggest qualm is the lack of voice-acting, but considering the amount of text, it would have been impossible for Zombie Cow to manage. The game is very well written so reading isn’t that annoying anyway. The dialogue between Ben and Dan works great, as well as the characters I’ve met so far. I hope the game beats Hitler as a character deeper into the game. Don’t let it being indie stop you. With the very small price and heaps of praise this game has been getting it seems to me a must-buy for any adventure fan. I’ll post a longer write up once I’ve finished the game.

Read Full Post »

Jimmy McNulty managed to anger the major and is paying for the consequences.

Jimmy McNulty managed to anger the major and is paying for the consequences.

The second season shifts the focus to the loading docks of Baltimore, where the local union leader, Frank Sabotka, is involved with a criminal organization and showing a lot more money than would be expected of a dock worker, thus sparking the interest of a district commander(one Sabotka managed to anger), who gets the familiar faces of season 1 on a detail to catch Sabotka. Mixed into the whole mess are 13 women who die of suffocation in a loading container. The story focuses on the dockworkers and the criminal organization some of them are involved with. The Barksdales aren’t entirely forgotten but aren’t the focus here.

The policework stays much the same, involving wiretaps, cameras and waiting, as things happen in reality I quess. McNulty is once again the police the series follows the most. On the criminal side the Sabotka family gets the most screentime, with the most interesting one being Sabotka’s son, Ziggy, who mostly clowns around, and as he describes himself, is “the punchline of every joke”. He is drawn towards criminal activity due to easy money involved therein, but doesn’t succeed at that very well because no one takes him seriously. To sum it up he is the archetype of a failure and in a way embodies the message of the second season, which to me was living in poor conditions with little money easily leads people to crime. The loading docks are getting less and less traffic and the dock workers less and less work, which means less money of course. Set against this you understand why some of the dockworkers are lured to the money in crime, which in this case involves helping with smuggling and stealing loading crates that arrive at the docks.

Three and a half inches of diamond every morning

Three and a half inches of diamond as Sabotka describes what he wakes up with in the morning.

Season 2 takes a few episodes to get its pace together, but soon enough the series has you in again. I like the new characters a lot and the shift from the city to the dock area is welcome change in scenery and blows a lot of fresh air into the series. Its not too big a jump since the characters on the police side stay the same, more giving the season a tone of its own and still carrying the characters from the first season with it.

I have just have to mention the intro song again. This time its Tom Waits himself performing Way Down In The Hole with film material from the docks: Boats and loading crates being loaded and unloaded. HBO does intro’s extremely well, managing to sum each of their series in a minute and a half. The Wire perhaps even more so with a stroke of genius: Having the same song with five different versions serve as the intro to each of the seasons. If I ever hear Way Down in the Hole somewhere else it will bring this series to mind instantly. Otherwise there is very little music in the series. Although there was a brilliant episode with Johnny Cash’s Walk the Line playing, while each of the characters did their morning routines. Not including that, music is used very sparingly, not that I put all that much attention into things.

The Wire season 2 is extremely good. All the favorite characters from the first are present and the level quality doesn’t see any drops compared to the first, which sadly happens all too often with series. Six Feet Under changed into a direction I didn’t like as well as Rome. With the Wire season 2 is what you liked from the first one with a new set of criminals. Just bear with it for the first few episodes and you’ll enjoy the hell out of it.

Read Full Post »

SPOILER DISCLAIMER: Contains some heavy spoilers from A Game of Thrones, and some very minor ones from A Clash of Kings.

The second book in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire is a lot more darker than the first book. The prologue sets the tone for the rest of the book by portraying an old maester (their task is to help their lord in running the castle and offer sage advice), who can barely walk and already has his replacement following him around and helping with various tasks. In the end his fate is rather sorry. Like the prologue the whole book seems beset with failures, death and most importantly war. Each of the characters the book follows is in trouble most of the time and doesn’t seem to make slow, if any, progress towards their goals.

Perhaps the slowest is Daenerys, who at the end of A Game of Thrones, even though suffering an extremely large setback, still won a great victory. Now reality seems to set in. Then again she isn’t the biggest focus of the book, which is the fight for the kingdom between Stannis and Renly Baratheon, Joffrey of the Lannisters (a family known for its money and low sense morality) and Robb Stark, the King in the North. Four kings in all, each wanting the throne for himself. Naturally then the book concentrates on war and political battles. Tyrion Lannister, a.k.a the Imp, a dwarf, is perhaps the most interesting of the characters to follow as he is set in the maelstrom of the book, King’s Landing, a capital of sorts. In A Game of Thrones he was left with the job of being the King’s Hand for his nephew, King Joffrey. Tyrion’s battle for power from his position is very interesting to follow. The chapters with Jon Snow also caught my imagination, following him and the Night’s Watch on an excursion beyond the Wall.

The Stark daughters Arya and Sansa, the other a fugitive and the other a captive to the Lannisters, still make me wonder why they are a focus in the story, but I hope the books to come will make that clear. They are definitely growing into something, the brave girls, but just what remains to be seen. Entirely new narrating characters are Theon Greyjoy, who goes to meet his father after 10 years of being a political captive to the Starks and a smuggler, also known as the Onion Knight, now in the service of Stannis. They seem to be added mostly to portray the war from different points of view and as characters remain rather distant.

As I said earlier I found the mood of the book to be a lot more downcast than A Game of Thrones. Nearly all of the characters find their way barricaded by problems, setbacks and a sense of disillusionment, a case in point is Sansa Stark who has come to realize just how evil his betrothed King Joffrey is. In the first book she still believed all the tales of gallant knights she had heard, but now, with a lot of help from the King’s Hound, comes to realize that tales are merely tales and in reality knights aren’t all that noble, at least those of with Lannister blood in their veins, or Lannister gold in their pockets. The book is still a very enjoyable read, but the general darkness of the themes and story really started growing on me. Martin could have put some happier moments in to the book to make it easier on the reader. Perhaps in the next book, whose name (A Storm of Swords) doesn’t really evoke a lot of hope to say the least.

As a sidenote, A Game of Thrones the television series seems to be progressing well. Martin has been blogging about the casting for some time now and the choices are looking good. Watching the Wire side by side with Martin’s books has me thinking even more strongly that HBO and A Song of Ice and Fire are a perfect pairing. Lucky I found out about the book before the series came out.  Watch out for some heavy spoilers on the blog as well, at least if you haven’t read the first three books. I know a bit too much about the third book already, thanks to some careless writing by Martin.

Read Full Post »

Public Enemies

a criminal point of view

Even though the movie’s name is Public Enemies it focuses on telling the story of one public enemy: John Dillinger (played by Johnny Depp), a renowned bank robber from the 1930s. For those who like their trivia the years 1931-1935 are sometimes referred to as the age of public enemies, because of a large amount of professional criminals. Dillinger of course robbed banks and shot a lot of police doing so. In the movie he ends up being chased by a squad of FBI police led by Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale).

Looking at the police in this movie it’s no wonder an age of public enemies took place. There are two jail breaks and a lot of bank robberies in the movie and during each one of them the police are so incompetent that the prisoners and robbers seem to escape and rob with ease. This goes for each time the police are close to catching Dillinger’s gang as well. The picture I got was that anyone with a black trenchcoat, a machine gun and a fast car could rob a bank in the 1930s.

For me the biggest flaw of Public Enemies are the action scenes. For a movie with prison escapes, bank robberies and shootouts all of the action should be top-notch. First off there isn’t any suspense to the action. With a cat and mouse chase like this I’d like to feel excited. This is perhaps because the characters don’t get developed, so I didn’t really care what happened to the characters as they weren’t fleshed out at all. There’s also perhaps too many characters: names just keep flying at you throughout the movie and half the time you don’t know which character is being followed. But the bigger problem is the way the action is shot with an overly use of shaky-cam. Most of the time I didn’t know what’s happening with the camera jumping and bouncing then quickly cutting somewhere else. The result was chaos more befitting a war movie. In a gangster piece it felt out of place.

Trench coat, check, machine gun, check

What also brought war movies to mind were the gun sounds, which were way over the top. At one point a rifle being shot made a sound resembling a huge explosion(and no, it didn’t explode into anyones hands). Some might call it realistic in the sense that, well, gunshots are very loud, but when compared to action pieces set in modern day, I felt the loud gunshots were a bit ridiculous, considering any bigger explosion or gun today has more power and thus sound than anything in the 1930s.

The reason I’m concentrating so much on the action is that there wasn’t that much else in the movie to like. The characters are well acted, but none of them made a very big impression. The dialogue might have something to do with that in the sense that there’s not a lot of talking that deepens the characters. John Dillinger has a girlfriend in the movie and their relationship is one of the bigger aspects in the movie, but even that seems very superficial. I might have enjoyed the movie more if I knew all the historical equivalents of the characters, which might have given them more depth and made them more interesting.

I’m surprised that Michael Mann directed Public Enemies. I just loved Collateral and Heat, both of which, as a side note, had a lot of good dialogue and living and breathing characters. It might be that the script for Public Enemies was hard to work with. I can imagine how hard it is to write a script about the life of a historical person. All excuses aside I can’t see very much to like about the movie: The action didn’t work for me, the characters were bland and there was too many of them. If you aren’t the biggest John Dillinger fan out there don’t go see this, or atleast wait for it to come on out DVD, or even TV.

The trailer makes this film look extremely good. Quess there wasn’t enough good stuff to last 2 and half hours.

Read Full Post »

Couple of buddies at a sea side resort

One of the money sinks of the film-industry called Harry Potter is nearing its end. Well, the last movie is going to be split in two so still a couple of movies to go after Half-Blood Prince. With all the fan pleasing this movie is actually quite enjoyable.

Something on the plot for the reading impaired: By this time it is common knowledge in the wizarding world that Harry is the chosen one destined to beat Voldemort. The main storyline follows Harry and Dumbledore trying to find out more about how to destroy Voldemort, tied into that is a secret mission given to Draco Malfoy by the Dark Lord himself. Then of course there is some of the day to day happenings from Hogwarts (of which snogging seems to be one of the more popular, mostly for Ron though).

I feel the movie manages to do what it should: retaining a lot of the charm of the books and still giving a story that makes sense in movie proportions. The screenplay has been tailored well, having the most important happenings from the book whilst giving fans of the book some favorite scenes. Its not perfect by any means: At some points I was baffled at some of the transitions: One point in the movie a handful of Death Eaters attack a location clear out of the sky without any explanation as to why the attack is taking place. Another scene involving a necklace had me wondering as well. Most of the time though the movie flowed on very smoothly seeeming to go past very quickly. I can promise you won’t be bored, there’s so many gags and so much action going on.

Still, the movie leans a bit too heavily on the book and pleasing the fans. I think some bolder moves ought to have been taken with the story. Now it seemed like there was some extra baggage that had to be crammed into the movie to please the crowds. Like having some characters who didn’t have anything to do with the main storyline just pop in and say a couple of lines. Neville for example just pops in at one point and is gone in a few seconds. Luna Lovejoy also makes a couple of appearances with some more screentime than Neville. The time reserved for them could’ve been used on Malfoy who is under a lot of pressure from the mission given to him and because of this was one of the more interesting characters. The Half-Blood Prince subplot was also left on the side. He is a constant in the book but the movie simply didn’t have the time to fit him in all that much I quess.

While Harry Potter of course lives in a world of magic there was one point early on where this fact was very much in the face. In the scene Dumbledore cleans up an apartment with his magic skillz looking very smug with, to top it off, Harry admiring him boggle-eyed. Cleaning-spells should be an everyday chore for wizards right? So the whole hubbub over a simple spell got me wondering and instead of admiring the special effect I just felt some of the immersion was gone. Nitpicking aside this was one of the rare scenes were I thought this isn’t what a wizard would be doing. For a quick escape from this muggle existence I can recommend watching this film, yes, even if you’ve read the books.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »