Category Archives: Gaming

Compulsion games’ Contrast

I have no idea why this game seems to have got so little attention and praise. It is excellent, the concept is incredibly cool (you are a little girl’s imaginary friend who can slip into shadows), the dialogue and writing is awesome and hilarious and the voice acting is great. Even the plot is pretty cool. The gameplay is a bit iffy at times but it’s so original and so clever that I can certainly forgive that.

One of my favourite scenes in the game is where you end up having to play as a cut-out paper character in a little theatre (games within games, people). You play as the princess, and there’s a handsome prince who has come along to win your hand in marriage from your father. But the prince turns out to be absolutely useless, and you as the princess end up having to go off on adventures and kill dragons and whatnot to save him. It’s really well done, really funny, and the way bouncing up animation of the prince whenever he gets rescued is hilarious and endearing. And so the princess decides to give this useless prince a try, although the narrator lets us know that in another story the princess says “screw this” and goes off adventuring on her own. It is so rare to find that kind of approach to female characters in games, I cannot tell you.

I really loved the characters too, the little girl (Didi), who is very solid and real feeling, as well as the mother. Johnny was a bit more of a caricature, but Vincenzo was super as well. The relationships were realistic, maybe a little overly dramatic but that added to the fun. The noir atmosphere and jazzy bits of the soundtrack were sooooooo cool as well. The gameplay sometimes made the puzzles a little frustrating, but apart from that it was top-notch! And yet critics only scored it 59% on metacritic. The world is inexplicable.

I don’t want to go all conspiracy theorist, but I kind of feel as if it’s been dismissed a bit because you play as a female character, and the other lead character is a little girl. Maybe I’m wrong though, maybe I just have a completely different taste in games to the rest of the world, maybe I’m being extra kind to it because I enjoyed playing a game with strong female characters. But check this out: “Feminist/lesbian agenda – Does this game contain feminist or LGBT agenda? This will affect my buying decision. The game looks very promising though.” http://steamcommunity.com/app/224460/discussions/0/810938810495435947/ YUCK.

Bastion, Tales of Monkey Island and Okami

I’ve been having a video gaming spurt lately, partly because SOMEONE is obsessed with mario kart wii (and if I play any more mario kart I might explode… or turn into a plumber on a bike, one of the two.).

First was Bastion, which made having my wisdom teeth out almost worthwhile. It has a fantastic storyline and I really loved the narrator and the music and the atmosphere and the gameplay. In fact, atmospherically, it’s one of the most memorable games I’ve played I think. And generally it was a whole load of fun to play.

I played the first episode of Tales of Monkey Island, which is doing a pretty decent job of filling the illustrious footsteps of the former games, but isn’t quite as funny to me. The others were madder somehow, you know? Somehow when games get bigger, I don’t know, maybe it’s because more money and effort is invested in them or something, but they tend to take less chances on crazy humour, which is what made Monkey Island for me.

And now I’m playing Okami, which I LOVE. No shortage of madness there, as the guy who posted this youtube video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bT1nnFIgAgw┬ásays, what’s more fun than watching an old guy with an orange on his head breakdance? Hurrah for Japan! I also really like the fact that the wolf you play as is a Lady Wolf, not a Dude Wolf, and a lot of the main characters are Ladies (and pretty damn cool Ladies too). I think there aren’t enough female protagonists in the gaming world.

I realise that I’m generally pretty positive in my gaming reviews, but I think it’s because I research games really really carefully before I play them, because I just can’t be bothered spending all that time and money if I don’t know if I’ll like them or not – books and tv series and films I can be a bit less picky about trying, cus they don’t take up that much time or money and nearly no mental effort is expended with them. My MSc is sort of draining my brain at the moment, so I’m feeling particularly lazy about thinking type stuff. In fact this post only exists because I’m procrastinating, trying to put finishing my essay off.

Hmm

Well I’ve actually been cooking a lot of vegetable based dishes which have turned out much nicer than their meaty counterparts, I must remember to post about the coconut rice with fried sweet potato and salsa, the vegetable burrito with butternut, the stir fries and the fried aubergine in a chickpea flour and tumeric batter and the chickpea curry. Sadly I am too lazy to write out the recipes right now. Lazy and a bit off-kilter because mysteriously for the past three days running now I’ve woken up with the Emerald Hill Zone music from sonic the hedgehog stuck in my head, and it takes hours to shake it out.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

I’m a long time Zelda fan, there isn’t a single video game series that I’ve played for as long or as consistently. I fell in love with OOT after avoiding the guards and coming across Zelda at the window of the palace, and since then I haven’t looked back. I’ve read a lot of criticism of Skyward Sword, but for me it’s probably the Zelda I’ve enjoyed most since OOT. The soundtrack is fantastic (I don’t know why so many people seem to hate it), and ok the story is rubbish but let’s face it we’re not playing Zelda for the storyline. I loved Link throwing himself off the island and being caught by his bird, I loved the feeling of flying and I loved so many little details in the game, like Beedle’s shop. The bugs were a bit of a disappointment, and so was Demise, but Zelda’s character was better than usual and not completely insipid and the recurring boss dude was really genuinely creepy. Twilight Princess might have looked darker than Skyward Sword but I found the boss in Skyward Sword more frightening.

This is also the only Zelda I’ve gone back to the next day and started replaying on hero mode. I don’t know, something about it just appealed to me. I also thought the motion control was really good and I’m losing patience with people whining about how much they hate it. It’s not perfect, no, but it pulls you into the game a damn sight more than pressing buttons on a controller. I liked a lot of the meta stuff in the game too, like the Acadamy celebrating its 25th anniversary, and the big deal they made about Link getting his traditional gear. I hope they do something different in the next game, but in terms of zelda-ish-ness this was pretty much perfect. So, well done Nintendo!

Skyward Sword

Professor Layton vs Ace Attorney

Oh my god. I have no idea how I’ve managed to only just find out about this, but let me just say: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!!!! SO EXCITED!!!!!!!! It’s like a dream come true. I am a massive fan of Professor Layton and of Phoenix Wright (Currently playing Trials and Tribulations in fact). I haven’t been as excited about a game since Twilight Princess. I am so freaking excited I’ve just got to tell the whole internet: AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This blog, flickr and youtube

This has turned into a very boring and impersonal blog about Drupal shortcuts! I should really do something about that. It’s really quite hard to work out what to write about – personal stuff doesn’t seem appropriate for something that future employers might read, but it’s difficult for me to write about things which interest me without them having personal elements. So I think, all in all, I’m going to stop worrying about that and just write about whatever I feel like. After all, I’ve got to harness my vitriol somehow (I have a rant about the quality of writing in 9 hours 9 persons 9 doors bottled up that I really ought to expunge for a start).

So, working in one of the most beautiful botanic gardens in the world (Kirstenbosch, Cape Town), I have been trying to take up photography again and set myself a challenge of taking 3 images that I am happy with per week. I’ve been a bit distracted because what I really want to do is explore the beautiful reddish-brown colour of the water in the mountain streams, and I’ve been looking at cheap underwater camera cases on Amazon. I did try taking a photo with my camera wrapped in a clear plastic bag (because I’m impatient and I’d have to order it from amazon.co.uk as there is no amazon.co.za), but it wasn’t great and was kinda blurry:

0706-P1020186

I love the red colours and the quality of the sunshine in the water – the colours really are like that, I’ve not photoshopped it or enhanced it at all.

Anyway, the point is that I’m setting myself a goal – to upgrade this blog because goodness knows what version of wordpress it’s running on, to theme it so that it’s got my flickr feed (http://www.flickr.com/photos/rukaya/) and also my little kitty cat’s youtube channel :) http://www.youtube.com/user/MissMirvina, because, honestly, I’m not just some kind of Drupal/programming nerd!

Descriptive stumbling blocks

I don’t know why I dislike analysing texts (Shakespeare especially for some reason!) and paintings so much. I started loathing it when I was doing my art A-Level, and one of the reasons I like the Impressionists so much is that their art is straightforward and about beauty and colour and joy. Painting’s like Renoir’s The Jardin d’Essai just leave me breathless. I’ve got to the stage in my documentation where I have to start putting down on paper exactly why I love the particular paintings I chose and why they influenced me so much and I’m having such a hard time doing it.

Renoir's The Jardin d'Essai, Algiers - 1881

I do love the contrast of the aquamarine + teal and burned gold, I love how the flashes of silvery white add such liveliness and character; it makes the piece seem perfect. I think the buildup of textures and strokes is masterfully executed, but even writing it down in this blog in the most informal way possible makes me cringe a little. It seems to cheapen the art and make it less, discussing it. I do wish I could work out why I think it’s so, because intellectually I know that a group of people discussing what they love most about a piece of art means everybody gets more out of it; some people might spot bits other people haven’t noticed and so on.

I enjoy discussing The Wire and certain books and so on, it just seems to be visual/aesthetic things like artwork or video that I have a bit of a block with (and Shakespeare and a lot of the classics). This next lot of documentation is going to be painful.

This is dent to my determination to get it done is not helped by my evil evil housemate introducing me to Professor Layton and the Curious Village which is seriously quite scarily addictive. I have a terrible weakness for puzzles and this fulfils that weakness in a very big way. The art is really cute and the dialogue is either terrible on purpose or written by somebody with a very dry sense of humour, either way it makes me laugh a lot. I do like it.

Planescape Torment

Planescape Torment is the best RPG I’ve ever played. The combat system sucks and it seems to be as buggy as hell but oh the story more than makes up for it. You start off waking up in a mortuary, with no idea of who you are or how you got there. Slowly you start to uncover your past and the past of your companions (who you pick up along the way with the exception of a floating talking skull called Morte who’s turns out to be there with you in the mortuary). I wasn’t completely sold on it until the first sign you get of something being not quite right – more than waking up clueless I mean. But then betrayals, treachery, double crossing, love and hate and insanity galore – the plots are layered and woven with such depth I couldn’t stop playing for about 2 days solid.

Why do so few game companies realise the importance of hiring proper writers? Is it really the case, that linear half hearted/2 dimensional stories are the ones people prefer? I don’t really know, I mean I suppose going by what’s on TV that’s the case… The Wire for example has some really amazing writing in it but it doesn’t seem to be aired anywhere in the UK and I think up until recently even to get the DVDs you had to order from amazon america. My friend assures me that what sells are the tired old rehashes of previous titles, and that’s why there’s such a lack of innovation in the game industry. I’m not entirely convinced though. I recently (well, not actually recently, but since I last posted) played Portal and the dialogue in it was outstanding, and I’m pretty sure that’s a big hit. Apparently the only reason Valve can spend so much time and money hiring really good writers is that they have steam and were started by private funds or something?

And it’s funny, writers seem to really want to write compelling and absorbing plots rather than your standard trash, and all the gamers I know seem to want to play them (maybe I just move in very elite circles or something!). We even, you know, buy them! I just don’t understand how the best selling games of last year were all sequels to one game or another as far as I know (fifa, need for speed, pro evolution, the sims).

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time AGAIN!

I finished this yesterday. Got distracted midway by Resi 4, and then by 6 Robin Hobb 800+ page books. But wow though, this game is so good. Level design was superb, dialogue was excellent, and I loved the grace of the movement and animation so so much.

As well as that, it was a very pretty game:

Sands of time

Weirdly enough I really loved the voice acting too. I can count on one hand the games where I’ve thought the voice acting was done well and suited the characters. They got it spot on with Prince of Persia though, and the music through the game was great as well.

They got the difficulty level right too. Just enough so your stomach drops with dread when you see the latest fiendish timed trap sequence, and your heart lifts just as high when you manage to complete it, but not so much that you are still trying to get through it half an hour later, growling in frustration. Everything is really tightly done, and it’s the kind of thing where you can see the designers and coders and testers have put hundreds and hundreds of hours into making everything exactly right.

In fact one sentence can summarise just how immersive this game is : When the Prince is climbing up the torture chamber, jumping from beam to beam, occasionally overbalancing with bats flying out at him and no sand left, I actually experienced vertigo.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

The movement of the Prince is fluid and effortless – the first few battles I was just constantly jumping and backflipping over people and then spinning round to knife them, just because it was so much fun to watch. Getting through to slightly harder battles and it’s even more enjoyable, trying to think tactically about it. Oh, and being able to slow/turn back time is pretty damn cool as well.

I love the way it’s being told as a story, it gives a totally new take on checkpoints and dying (“No, no, that’s not what happened. I didn’t fall there. Let me start again.”), and so far the plot is pretty interesting as well.

I remember when my brother and I found the very first prince of persia on an old floppy, and oh how we struggled to get even past the dungeon levels. Back then I was really impressed by Prince’s movement as well, it seems to be their trademark to make the character animation beautiful.

It feels pretty weird going back to being restrained by a normal controller though, instead of the freedom of the wii remote but it’s worth it. Can’t wait for Resident Evil 4, which is released in a few days time, but chances are I’ll play it briefly and then go back to Prince of Persia.

Edit 04 July : Boy was I wrong, Resi Evil has me hooked. Bit of a scary game though…