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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Back to the Lighthouse: Thoughts on Bioshock Infinite after putting it down for a whole year.

There was a time I threatened to make Infinite my 2013 game of the year. I should have made a similar threat for 2014, but to be honest... nothing jumped out at me and the heavy hitters ultimately broke even. Inquisition was two good halves of one great game as the open world devoured half of it's story. Beyond Earth is at least one comprehensive expansion pack away from being anything special. And Dark Souls 2, while being a damn fine game in of itself sits in it's predecessor's shadow a bit too much; though it's subtle tweaks to the death formula and it's central town were wonderful.

Wait... what were we talking about?


I love Infinite. Too much, honestly. As I said before, I tried to give it my goty when no one else would. After the initial influx of perfect review scores the tide turned sharply. I wanted to link to the IGN review, but they walked it back to a 9.4. It was a 10 two years ago. That's how swift and angry the backlash was. People were furious. But when aren't gamers furious? After a couple weeks Infinite's place in history was set, cooled by months and months of contrarian cynicism. Do I sound bitter? I should. I'm insanely bitter.

I wanted to write an article that was confident. Something so sure of the game's merits that I wouldn't be bothered by the fact that this was the game people decided to complain about finding loot and food in trash cans. I believed Infinite became a symbolic target for things critics had tired of. My article kept devolving into mini tirades. I was jumping into the cheap seats and throwing punches.

Now that I've booted it all up again and enjoying it all again, I find myself picking at the old wounds.

Like how vigors felt tacked on to most folks. People thought they weren't integrated into the story enough. They were brand new! The story of vigors was the story of plasmids because they were literally the same thing stolen from Rapture. People didn't have time to get all tumory yet. And Colombia's implementation of shock jokeywas a hell of lot more sensible then what Rapture ever made of it.

But I concede the game has flaws. Many, in fact. But all sins are forgiven in my eyes because it manages to be so convincingly weird. With the right story and characters you can go anywhere and do anything. Even kill sky racists while traveling through time and space.  I especially love how well it treats faith. Not just zealotry. I believed the Colombians believe in Comstock. Their murmured prayers, the way they policed their friends, and their stunning monuments. The flooded church where Booker's rocket lands and the choral version of "will the circle be unbroken" gave me the closest thing to a religious experience a piece of entertainment ever will. No other game has captured the beauty and the horror of blind faith so powerfully.  Oh... I just got the symbolism of the blind baptizing priest. Christ, that took me long enough didn't it?

But one thing that bothered me the most was the twist surrounding Booker's identity.


As if ya'll don't even know.

I thought they cheated. Using a different voice actor, a cheap poly involving the Lutece field artificially aging Comstock, a general lack of evidence and foreshadowing. But I was wrong. It's actaully much better put together than the whole Atlas/Fontaine twist. If I was really paying attention the first time I could have figured it out!

For one, in the beginning Comstock knew everything about Booker. He knew about the mark on his hand, he knew he served at wounded knee, he knew about his daughter.

Two, at the hall of heroes it claims Comstock did everything Booker did at wounded knee. Comstock even brought Booker's old commander, Slate, along to Colombia.

Three, aside from the running theme of baptism and remaking ones' self you hear about in all of Comstock's audio logs; they totally set up the concept of the exact same person being two different people in different worlds. How?

Come on, Redbubble. This shirt's been in "manufacturing" for 5 days!!!"

It was all there... I'm so proud of you Bioshock! You know, Fitzroy's lack of evolution notwithstanding. But rendering your entire trip to Finkton with a hole in the universe was actually devastatingly cheap, for the record.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Sid Meier's Starships, impressions.

Do you want to fly around in space, currying favor with hundreds of planets while building an unstoppable armada in direct competition with other civilizations for control over the entire galaxy? Then you want SMS. It's a stand alone tablet game that's also on steam, she ain't winning any beauty contests, that's for sure. But I  love me some tactical combat with a race to be the most influential fleet mixed in.

It's solid, don't believe the negative nancy's in steam reviews. Come on, guys... SPACESHIPS!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Sir Terry Pratchett, Warrior Poet, Dead at 66.

He leaves behind a staggering catalog of beloved material, of which nothing but a few interactive exceptions are remotely worthy. I get that rock stars burn brightest and shortest, but novelists are supposed to stick around forever! As a distant admirer of his work, (I only read Good Omans to completion and that was a duet) You didn't need to dive too deep into the Discworld wiki to find a bevy of intricate and fascinating characters. He's also one of very few authors to get me to laugh out loud. Anything more than a bemused "Huh... yeah." when I'm wearing my serious book-time serious pants is the work of real talent.

Just say counterweight continent out loud and try not to enjoy yourself. Can't be done.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Hey, guess what? Powers dosn't suck! I have the pilot to prove it.

Sharlto Copley's American accent isn't laughable, neither is Adam Godley's, and I'm pleased as punch both these dudes have work. This project has been to development hell and back, so there are a couple scars you'll need to overlook to appreciate it. The thing is positively dripping in exposition, the CGI is less than convincing, and it sticks rigidly to the police procedural formula. But Eddie Izzard is essentially Hannibal Lector... again, I guess. But that's something I can't get enough of.

The acting is competent, the story, decent. It's ok. The water's fine. Have a drink:

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Sunday, March 8, 2015

This season of Archer is mixed, but one episode makes it all worth it.

For just a few seconds, we see Lana as a teenager on her way to a science fair. It felt like a a cutaway gag, but I didn't get the joke.

Here's Aisha Tyler at the same age.

The Kanes is the best episode of Archer in 2 years. Not only are CCH Pounder and Keith David on deck as her Berkley academic parents, but you also get the funniest drunk Archer ever. After half a season coolly tolerating what I thought was a pretty steep downswing for the series, I remember why I love this show. It's when they make meaningful character arcs in the service of an espionage yarn. It's when they throw in wonderful Easter eggs like above. It's when Archer meets Lana's parents for the first time in a fancy restaurant, passes out, and pulls the table cloth and settings onto the floor as slowly as humanly possible.

Friday, March 6, 2015

My rebate is just enough for a ps4... and a certain march exclusive.

I told myself over and over that I wasn't going to do it. No matter how much I loved both Dark Souls, no matter how fuggin' amazing Bloodborne looked, I wasn't going to take the bait. But I'm weak. 400-500 dollars has fallen into my lap courtesy of the NC department of revenue and depending on where the reviews fall... I may do something selfish and irresponsible.

But what else is new?

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Last Man on Earth Review: This is a man's world.

And lo, from the ashes of Parks and Recreation, another alumnus from SNL rose to take up the mantle of best American comedy show ever. Last Man on Earth has the confidence and pacing of a tight 90 minute movie, but has it's eye on sticking around for good while. It's really hard to explain how expertly it mixes up Will Forte going hilariously, yet endearingly, insane. Without spoilers anyway. The only issue at all is that by the end of the double pilot I'm worried its used up the A material and that all that's left is to go down hill. Even so, that's going to be a long way down.

Describing how Forte spends years in solitude after almost every single person on earth dies (and seemingly evaporates) ruins the punchline. The myriad ways he soldiers through his boredom and loneliness is the funniest physical comedy this side of Macgruber. But why that isn't this generation's Caddy shack is a whole 'nuther rant for a whole 'nuther time.

But the show has a lot more on it's mind than letting Forte spread his adorable little comedy wings. There's real vulnerability in his one sided chats with god that makes you sit back and appreciate the suicidal depression bubbling just under the shtick. The man can act and while he doesn't carry the show on it's own (SPOILERS!) he could have for one or two more episodes.

"There's really no wrong way to use a margarita pool."
It's when Kristen Schaal joins the mix that the post apocalyptic battle of the sexes kicks off. They're absolutely perfect for each other. You could produce hours upon hours of comedy gold with them just bickering at each other. And apparently they have. At first she comes off as a bit of a nag, but then I realized I'd empathized with Will too much. Her reactions to his crushingly pitiful state are perfectly warranted. While she has her fair share of screws loose herself, she's much more rational and forgiving than he deserves.

There may be think pieces written on the possible misogyny of her character, but I think she's pretty great as is. Though her manic need to get married is admittedly... pretty gross.

But I can't remember a comedy being this good out of the gate. It's Groundhog Day with sexual politics and I've re watched it twice now. Everything from the set design, to the score, to the dialogue is as top as shelfs can get. It's really high on the shelf, guys.