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Thursday, June 25, 2009

For Sunday: '9' Trailer

Burton's Alice Looking Amazing

Wired has a great preview of Tim Burton's upcoming Alice in Wonderland adaptation:

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Game Play: Sims 3 for iPhone

The Sims is one of those iconic franchises which will get a lot of buy-in pretty much no matter where it gets ported, so it is nice that EA has put a lot of polish and presentation to the iPhone implementation of Sims 3.

I don't have the PC version of this latest installment, so I can only compare it to the original Sims and the Sims 2 that hit the PlayStation a while back. How well does this ultra-portable take on the game hold up? Well, there's good and bad.

All of the tamagotchi style play remains intact, you still have to make sure your Sim's bodily functions are being appeased as well as a long chain of wishes that (very) randomly come along. You'll get a house that you can upgrade and furnish, but you can't modify the layout (just buy bigger houses). Those wishing to trap Sims in one room prisons with a stove and waiting for them to catch on fire will need to look elsewhere.

Only one Sim can be controlled, the one you create with various personality traits and some chosen fasion statement. There's no family dynamics save for marriage, although like many things in the game marriage seems to be mostly a status update as my current SimWife has no problem with my romantic interludes with my LiveInSimGirlfriend, even when performed right next to her.

In fact, the game seems to be a lot easier when you more or less try to have sex (oh, sorry, WooHoo) with everyone you meet. I went from the bottom rung on the politics to the top in a single Sunday afternoon by just repeatedly asking my boss (who I was sleeping with) for a promotion. I almost quit right there on the spot.

Jobs are a bit odd, actually, because promotions are slow unless you're a whore and you can earn five to ten times more by fishing than going into work any given day. Fishing is done via a quick mini-game which is about as challenging as playing tic-tac-toe alone. All of the mini-games, which include cooking and repairing things, are about as difficult. Oddly getting better at cooking is less rewarding because it ends up making even a grilled cheese more annoying since you have to juggle four pots instead of two (yes, in the world of Sims, grilled cheese sandwiches are a stew).

In just a few days of playing on and off, I've made friends with everyone, made a nemesis, slept with half the women in town, got fired, became Vice President (who knew towns had Vice Presidents?) and own a pretty snazzy house. Except for fulfilling all the possible wishes, which apparently unlocks the Pawn Shop in town, I've more or less maxed out the game.

So bottom line question - is it fun? The short answer is yes, and addictive as all get out. The long answer is yes, but ultimately somewhat shallow. I miss the wide variety of goods you could buy in previous versions. I miss being able to cultivate multiple Sims in different directions at the same time (in the same house). I miss well established goals which might take longer than an hour to accomplish. There's a serious lack of depth in both the interactions with the game itself, like the minigames, and with the Sims (like not being able to annoy your wife by moving in with another woman).

Recommend, but with a but of a shrug. I'm still playing it, and Sim fans will have already bought it and have made their second or third Sim by now. For those not already into some kind of Sim fetish, though, you might be cautious.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Book Read: Anathem

We just finished Neal Stephenson's Anathem on audiobook last week. We've been fans since Snow Crash, and loved the audio adaptations for both that book and Diamond Age

First, a side note that I'm a bit of fan about audiobooks. It fits easily with the fact that I rarely have time to read for fun anymore and The Girl and I can share the book in tandem. It helps that production of audiobooks has gotten a thousand times better (we can probably thank a certain Jim Dale for that a bit).

Anathem is a fascinating book and a little hard to talk about without getting to far into spoilers. This is partially because one of the interesting things Anathem is a bit of a word game. Stephenson actually opens the book with a bit of a preface about that, but what follows is an interesting set of rules, some ruses and a lot of word play that fits neatly into the book's themes and manages to make some interesting twists and points on the genre in large.

Compared to his other books, the story starts off slow (OK, slower than Snow Crash and Diamond Age at least) with a lot of explanation - this is not just for exposition but also sets up foundation blocks for questions and mysteries that crop up in the second and third acts of the book. There's some work to stick with, but there is a great deal of payoff in the end.

Highly recommended.

Amazon's Gold Box Loves PS3 Today

Amazon has some great PS3 game deals right now.