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Thursday, February 05, 2009

TV Watch, Lost, The Little Prince

This season is starting to feel off balanced to me, and I think I'm getting an impression as to why. I'm getting in line with the sentiment that the On Island scenes seem to out pace the Off Island scenes so much that episodes feel lopsided as a whole. The show has gone from flashbacks to flashforwards and now on to some kind of flashoffonisland tango thing. The first season of the show worked best when the flashbacks proved out some kind of poignant character development. The flashforwards worked best when they pieced together some kind of portion of the larger puzzle. The flashoffonisland tango parts just don't create any kind of synergy for the show.

I'd honestly vote for one full episode off island, one full episode off. As it is, the off island parts seem slow to me. Sayid's parts are keeping it interesting, and I think I am physically unable to dislike a scene with Hurley in it, but I can't help but think that fate as been so powerfully involved in this plot that legal tricks and tranq darts feel a little low brow.

The on island parts seem to be earnestly building to something. My only real complaint is that parts feel more clip show than time travel. And honestly, I must have microslept there a moment because the outrigger escape made very little sense to me.

So in general, this was mostly another bridge episode - but I'm hopeful that the next episode will reveal enough about Crazy French Lady's adventure that it will pay off in the end.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Game Play: Savage Moon (PSN Exclusive)

Savage Moon has managed to occupy quite a bit of my relatively sparse free time of late. It's a tower defense game and for the most part holds all the trappings of that genre, which isn't always my favorite, together in the kind of bundle you'd expect.

I really like the setting, this isn't some cutesy defense game ... you're blowing up space bugs. You will probably turn down the volume on this game at least once. I like that when I'm dropping a row of mortar towers - I feel like I'm really destroying some stuff. There are some very pretty explosions to be had.

The tutorial levels will trick you into thinking that the game is easier than it really is - expect to get your ass kicked early. I fumbled through a few levels, then thought I had really mastered the game and ... am now getting my ass kicked again. If the normal game isn't challenge enough, there is also a vengeance mode where the waves never stop and you're just out to last as long as possible.

As a tangential thought - is it me or are tower defense games the evolutionary leftover of the old school god games? I feel like there's a bit of Populous here, like where it turned right after a night of passion with Starcraft.

Anyway, highly recommend especially for fans of the genre.

Movie Watch: Slumdog Millionaire

Largely, Slumdog Millionaire lives up to the hype. It's a fun little drama that doesn't shy away from the occasional scene that will instill a wince into the audience.

The biggest triumph from the movie is its ability to play at the heartstrings without feeling like a Hollywood movie. If anything, Boyle brings his distinct touch to the film which gives a unique air. The movie isn't Hollywood, it's not Bollywood - even though it certainly lifts aspects of each.

As an aside, Danny Boyle is a damn impressive director. Anyone who can bring us Millions (which if you enjoy Slumdog, I highly recommend), 28 Days Later and this film is about as versatile as you can get. He's certainly on my "I'd watch anything he makes" list.

If there's any critique of the movie, it is that it is a slow ride to a rather predictable ending. That's a shallow problem all and all though, since the ride is interesting, at times poignant and often a joy to watch (or wince).

Highly recommend. Soundtrack is pretty good too...

Monday, February 02, 2009

For the record, this is why I left web forums

There are 63 IGN reader reviews of Killzone 2 at the time of this writing. Right now the average is 7.2, but that's more of a mathematical sum of the flaming platform war going on there, especially since the game doesn't come out until the end of the month.

Game Play: Penny Arcade Adventures, Episode 1

I feel like a dissenter in a sea of fans, but I'm not coming down on a terribly positive side for this game. I'll probably poke at it some more this week, but it is in danger of being shelved after just a few hours of play.

The humor is of course, present - these are funny guys after all. Hothead has done a good job of translating the 2D style of their comic into a 3D world as well. This isn't some cheap rollout to cash in on Penny Arcade's considerable fame.

That said, there are several nuisances which add up quickly. There's little stuff, like "New Game" consistently being the default even after you've played a few times. More annoying is the sketchy method of running into objects to interact with them, which comprises a decent amount of the gameplay and yet you'll find yourself dancing around objects routinely. It's not super annoying, not a crime against nature or anything - but when it happens over and over again, and your reward is just some pithy description of a tack ... it wears a little thin.

Combat is what's really killing me. True confession, I've never been a big Final Fantasy fan, but I don't think that's the fault here. There's something about the interface which is just more work than play. You're watching the status of your action buttons to see when you can attack, but you're also supposed to be watching your opponents to see if you're supposed to be blocking since the game falls prey to the "turn based isn't good enough" philosophy of role-playing and everything occurs in quasi-real time. So while I'm squinting at Tycho's inventory to see if I have any bandages left, I'm trying to block with another and ... damn, I think I might have just healed an enemy. It's like a combat system for people with ADD. The best part of the combat, using minigames for powered up attacks, is reserved for those patient enough to wait to be beat on for it to be available, generally only to fail and get partial damage on it anyway. Not really a reward worth the effort.

And speaking of enemies, I might not have anything against mimes and robots in general - but I don't exactly get why I walked right over a pair of robots when I was by myself with a rake, but three of them wiped out my entire party in a heartbeat last night. The production values are fine - but, seriously ... enough with the damn robots. If you're going to throw two enemies at me of clearly differing difficulty - throw two enemies of me that look like they're clearly different. After the like tenth robot battle, it's one thing to be a little dull - but why be confusing too?

Part of me wants to like this game for its humor and charm. For a moment there, I was reminded of Anachronox , but no longer. And I can get the humor and charm for free from the web comic without having to bump around a suitcase so that I can open it and get killed by a lousy interface and a couple of robots.