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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Game Play: Flower (PSN)

What gets me about Flower, the latest from Jenova "flOw" Chen (and naturally, a lot of other people), is the etymology of it all. To describe Flower, you'd need to talk about flOw, Rez, Flight Simulator and Pac-Man. And I don't even know how much that would cover it all.

Flower isn't so much fun as relaxing, so toss some Katamari Damarcy in there too for that "virtual stressball" thing. There's some logic and the most thinly cut concept of puzzle solving, but mostly in that "the rules takes some figuring out" Chen kind of way.

Which, for the record, is why I won't compare this game to Linger In Shadows - although others might. Flower actually does have a ruleset and a pretty standard concept of game mechanics, whereas Linger often seemed to hope you'd just mash buttons until the scene moved in the right direction. Linger might occupy its own interesting corner as part of the demoscene, but I wouldn't put it too close to Flower in a Venn diagram.

The only bad part of Flower is that it is kind of short. You can get through the main portion in a night, no problem. Course, I think we still have an unlock to do by going back through and completing more of the original levels. I don't know if we'll ever play Flower to that extent, but even playing it last night makes the $10 price tag seem pretty worthwhile.

TV Watch: Dollhouse

The Dollhouse premiere was a pretty by the numbers send up, with some Whedonesque flair. The real beauty of this show is the setup, so there isn't going to be much meat in the first episode. Eliza seems extremely capable of pulling off what could be a nightmare for an actress - potentially playing a different character for every episode while also having to keep the baseline glassy persona of "Echo" to heart. The first part of the show made me a bit worried that most of echo's persona would come out as a brazen brunette who might be just as likely to drink under the table as kiss you, which isn't potentially much of a stretch for Dukshu - but the episode showed the range was there, which keeps the core of the show intact.

While not ideal for the performer, Whedon has created a beautiful concept for the writers. They can inject nearly any plot or character and fit Echo into it, while also milking the various portions of the Dollhouse itself for material. Seeing what Whedon can do with a spaceship, some crime and a couple stowaways - I'm looking forward to the rest of the season.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Nintendo's Massive Fail

The Girl is playing Animal Crossing: City Folk as I write this - watering some flowers and bouncing around. Our mortgage is half a millions now, but at least we have a basement.

At this very moment, Big Brother might be playing it as well. We've had some weird disconnect with exchanging friend codes all week long. We have no real way of knowing. We've got a cherry tree and our animals have been complaining about meeting people. Even more annoying, it seems our citizens know he's added our friend code, because they've mentioned him by name. The animals in the game can acknowledge him, but we cannot.

This is in despite of the fact that we've already played together on other games. Our Wiis know each other. We have each other's Miis.

City Folk is a game that constantly reminds you it wants to play online. I don't mean that in some subtle way, I mean the game actually asks you every time you play about why you don't have more friends you could be playing with.

But we're not. And I can't think of a single good reason why. Nintendo has just completely drop the ball here, and they've essentially dropped the ball when it comes to social networking and online multiplayer for the entire system.

They may be rolling in cash from selling more Wii Fits than a fruit stand sells fruit in the desert, but just because I have a Fit and Big Bro has Fit doesn't mean that we know what the hell the either is doing with it.

Compare this to the PlayStation 3 (or, I'm sure, the 360 to even larger degree). I've compared game play with other people just by looking at their trophies. If someone comes online, I can know about it even if I'm in the middle of a game. I've bounced around LittleBigPlanet with complete strangers on more than one occasion. It's as easy as selecting "Play Online" instead of "Play By Myself".

What's the name of Nintendo's console? It's the Wii, intentionally designed to invoke the imagery of playing in a group. But the only time that has really happened is some nights of bowling. Hell, I have a better sense of community from PlayStation Home than I do from any Wii Channel. The Animal Crossing commercials are all about playing online with people miles and miles away.

But it's just branding, just like the Wii itself. Yeah, I know I've complained about this before.

But I think it bears repeating.

Your Friendly Reminder: Dollhouse and Terminator

Whedon fans might stay home tonight. You've got new Terminator and the premiere of Joss' latest, Dollhouse.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Pride And Prejudice And Zombies

First heard of this on NPR's Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me during the "Stump the Listener" portion:

Few challenges, however, are as unusual as the latest foe facing Elizabeth Bennet of Pride and Prejudice – a plague of the undead sent to reduce the picturesque villages of Longbourn and Meryton to smouldering ruins.

Hollywood studios are bidding to turn a radical reworking of Austen’s most popular book, now called Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a parody to be published in April, into a blockbuster movie.

Desperate for new ideas, studio chiefs hope “P&P&Z” will mark the bloody birth of a feral offspring of classic British literature: “monster-lit”.
-- Jane Austen's Bennet girls go zombie slaying

That it may be made into a movie, however, is new to me. Oh Darcy, I may have just swooned.

Watch FEAR Live Tomorrow, Friday the 13th

For those of us not lucky enough to win the FEAR 2 competition where you get whisked off to a secret location to frag the hell out of anyone, either because you weren't one of the eight selected or you don't live on the other side of the pond, you can watch it live tomorrow at

Kicks off at noon PST. Hope to have a review copy and a review henceforth soonish.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

TV Watch: Lost, This Place Is Death

For me, this was quite possibly the best episode of the new bunch. The on/off island stories actually had something to do with each other and nearly everything about Jin and Locke was highly watchable. The scenes in the past with Danielle were pertinent and lacked that "clip show" feeling to them that some of the other time travel scenes have been burdened.

Faraday remains a person of interest, his mom apparently being some kind of keeper of the island and him trying to warn Charlotte not to die and all. Dollars to donuts he's the reason why she knew about the well, though I would put that under the "probably left unanswered" bucket of questions, in the grand scheme of things.

Was nice to see the smoke monster again, actually just the monsters in general on the island. Interesting to watch the "possessed" member of Crazy French Lady's crew talk about it as a security system, which Danielle would repeat years later. Odd, I thought, though, that the temple had Egyptian style glyphs on it.

Course, to bring it all together again - let us recall that one translation of the timer hieroglyphs was essentially "the underworld".

So maybe the place is death? Not that the Losties are necessarily dead, but maybe the island is a gate to something else.

Monday, February 09, 2009

I'd like to start a petition

To get Google to blacklist Experts Exchange. Maybe I'm alone on this - but it is insanely annoying to try and research questions only to get to a forum which requires a subscription before they'll show you anything. Do they have the answer? Do they not? Is it a boat? Maybe it's a boat!

I don't care if it's a yacht, I'm not paying a subscription so that I can find out what is behind door number two. The point is - these are invalid search results. They're not resulting in any useful information, they result in an ad for the Exchange. They're taking up extremely valuable space for other people with probably less evil SEO methods that might offer real answers.

Dear LittleBigPlanet: I was *this* close to giving up

I'm really, really not a fan of platformers. I put up with them back in the day when they were more or less the predominant life form in the gamingverse, but now I've got all sorts of options and so jumping from point to point in the dire hope that I don't fall so that I don't have to restart from another point, or worse - the very beginning - just isn't wildly appealing to me.

But some surprise me. I played through to nearly every star of Super Mario 64 and barely even noticed the time had passed. And quite honestly, LittleBigPlanet may be the best platformer ever made.

But it's still a platformer and hence when I spend twenty minutes or so jumping on a stupid a trampoline because is the only way to finish the level - it does suck the fun out a bit. This is a point nearly three-fourths the way through The Wedding Level, and it drove me insane.

For the record - you jump as the tramp is just going back up. Not before, or after - or your little sackperson will flail around like a monkey. Once you get the hang of it, it isn't that bad. But until then - it is insanely annoying.

So it was nearly a shelf moment, but I'm glad it wasn't. I've moved on from The Wedding already stumbled into some choice moments (like the dog with the lantern following you around). Was going through the creation tutorials before going to bed, hope to try them out some soon.

Color Me Skeptical: Sega's New Console

Sometimes I'll read something that just feels like a real head scratcher. This might turn into something of a series...

First is this assumption that a recent Sega trademark hails a new console. For one thing, I've seen where patent and trademark speculation get us - and it isn't pretty. For another, it ignores the fact that Dreamcast aside, Sega has a healthy interest in hardware - so another trademark has a far simpler explanation than the company re-entering the home market.

And what exactly would be gained by a Sega console? It's a fierce generation for competition, with Sony and Microsoft shelling out dollars left and right for control of assets. Sega would have to take a bloodbath in production, advertising and development costs to get a dent in at this point. Remember that Microsoft's ability to buy marketshare was a factor in the Dreamcast's fate to begin with, and now would not be any different.

So Sega would be out a truckload of cash to offer gamers ... anything new? It seems unlikely unless Sega has some kind of hardware trick, a la Wiimote, up its sleeve.

In general, though, I wouldn't wait around for something which would cost a ton during a global recession, especially when its unclear if gamers would even want it.