All Your Basses Are Belong To Us

November 19, 2008 at 13:28 (Music, News, Reviews, Video Games) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

However misguided the R&B ambitions of Jack White and Alicia Keys’ Quantum of Solace may be, it’s been much too long, I fear, since I last indulged in such bombastic bass, and “Another Way to Die” fills that sweaty pit of sub-sound perfectly.

Still haven’t seen the movie, though.

So who saw this coming?

How Many Million Bicycles in Beijing?

How Many Million Bicycles in Beijing?

I’m enough of a dyed-in-the-wool Guns N’ Roses fan that this album already means more to me than the punchline I imagine much of the rest of the world will hear it as, but all the leaks have meant there are only five songs I haven’t already heard a hundred times over.  “There Was A Time” is still my favourite; I’m such an outright sucker for rock ballads I should be pelted with animal crackers until dead.

***

Two new reviews for you all to take a gander at.  Actually, come to think of it, six reviews, I suppose — the Puzzle Pack and the Power Pack collect together three PSN titles apiece.  The latter is decidedly the better of the pair, and while it’s great value for money – both are, but I’d sell my remaining grandparents for flOw – I can’t help but be a bit disappointed SCEE seem more intent on wringing a few more sales out of some middle of the road downloadable games than genuinely representing the unique strengths of the PlayStation Network.  Still.  A tenner and change makes for an incredible deal that’ll keep anyone with a PSP busy during what little downtime they have between the flood of triple-A console and PC releases.

Soundtrack to this entry: Donovan – Hurdy Gurdy Man

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Command & Cactuar: A Review of Multiwinia – Survival of the Flattest for the PC

November 16, 2008 at 23:36 (Reviews, Video Games) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

Three like-minded undergrads meet at Imperial College London and hit it off.  In their love of retro games, Chris Delay, Mark Morris and Thomas Arundel share a passion that proves decisive when they band together to form Introversion Software.  Almost single-handedly, Chris cooks up a little hacker sim by the name of Uplink, while his collegiate compatriots get down to the business of selling their fledgling company’s quirky debut.  They appoint themselves “the last of the bedroom programmers” and invest in some CD-Rs and ink for their printers; they make and distribute the first copies of the game by hand.  They’re a dedicated, down-to-earth bunch of dreamers, and as such, it’s a pleasant surprise to say that they didn’t fall victim to that essentially British condition Top Gear so aptly ascribes as “ambitious, but rubbish”.  Within hours of its launch, Uplink had made back the developer’s paltry initial investment – and then some.  Enough, say, for Introversion Software to take to E3 2002 and drop £10k on showy speedboats and supercars.

The path Introversion Software took from those no-doubt hazy days to the more sobering state of the industry today hasn’t always been straightforward, taking in the bankruptcy of their then-publisher to the near-insolvency they faced themselves, not to mention a series of heartbreaking delays.  Their sophomore effort finally arrived in 2005, but despite critical acclaim and strong overnight sales, few gamers were willing to drop full retail price on an indie darling from a largely unknown quantity.  So few, in fact, that Introversion Software had to sign on for government benefits to sustain themselves through the six miserable months after their failure at retail.  But then: lo, Gabe Newell said, let there be Steam.  And there was Steam.  And it was good.  Valve’s groundbreaking distribution network made a modest success of Darwinia; it was the perfect platform for such a loving throwback to find its feet, and that it did, thanks in no small part to the modding community that blossomed around Introversion Software’s geometric RTS.

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All Quiet on the Uncertain Front

October 21, 2008 at 4:17 (Rants, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

I’ve just unhinged enough that I could well have staged the last few weeks of silence to engineer a situation in which I could finally use that title for a post.

In other, incalculably less significant news, I’m back to let you all know what to expect over the next few weeks, point vainly at a few things in the meantime and hope to the heavens someone out there makes an indistinct enough noise that I can justify miscontruing it as approval.

Last order of business first, then.  This was an absolute bastard to write.  I can’t honestly say I’m much of a Wario fan (is anyone?), but the week tricked me into thinking it might be quiet, so I took on a review of something I don’t feel entirely confident about even and ended up in the strangest of positions, which is to say having a kind of an out-of-body experience during which I played through the entirety of The Shake Dimension.  Maybe that’s not so strange, really; I’ve auto-piloted through some outright awful games, movies, experiences even.  What is, is that I had nothing to say about it thereafter.  Absolutely fuck all.  For want of inspiration or any more constructive kind of criticism, I decided to accuse Wario’s latest developers of selling their souls to Satan.  Sadly, my admittedly rather wise editor stole a rape joke from my review.  The presumption!

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Eye is for Indie – 1 – Red (2008)

October 6, 2008 at 10:23 (Eye is for Indie, Movies, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

If you’re going to make a movie about a man and his dog and kill off the dog a few minutes in, you’d better hope the other half of the equation can carry the remainder of the narrative.  Luckily for Red, Emmy award-winning actor Brian Cox – whose nuanced take on that darling cannibal Hannibal in 1986’s Manhunter remains unsung in the face of Anthony Hopkins successive melodrama – is up to the task.  One of the few remaining British thespians unsullied by the gaudy promises of Hollywood, Cox is well equipped as Avery Ludlow, the half-demented driving force of this troubled production, and although the behind-the-scenes difficulties sully some of the film’s most potent moments, Red, in the end, is a quiet triumph that speaks to the talents of almost everyone involved.

Avery is a decorated veteran of the Korean war whiling away a quiet life in rural America with that most constant of companions: his dog, the eponymous Red.  One morning, the old friends drive down to an idyllic spot where the woods meet a beautiful lake for a little fishing.  Avery sets his rig down and casts his bait into the calm waters; Red settles in contentedly beside him.  It’s just another easy-going day for the pair until three teenagers looking for trouble happen upon them.  With the cold barrel of a hunting rifle to his temple, Avery bites his tongue, acquiesces with their demands; he offers up his beat-up old truck and hands over what little money he has, but it’s not enough to satisfy their sneering arrogance.  Danny McCormack, leader of the pack and elder brother to the hesitant Harold, turns the gun on Red and gut-shots the poor dog before stalking off to spend his hard day’s earnings on a sit-down dinner, leaving a stricken Avery to pick up the bloody pieces.

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A Spoonful of Sugar

September 30, 2008 at 8:08 (News, Reviews, Video Games) (, , , , , , )

Can’t stop for long, but between articles for Blogcritics and a column on indie films I’m working on, I wanted to take a moment to pimp another of my reviews over at AceGamez.  This time I’m gently poking fun at Opoona, ArtePiazza’s junior RPG for the Wii.  Here’s the intro text:

“Former Square Enix assistants ArtePiazza finally break out of the Dragon Quest grind with a new, original series. Sadly, despite an excellent soundtrack and an ambitious Skate-inspired battle system controlled entirely using the Nunchuck, the eponymous Opoona’s adventure is an experience measured at all times by a desire to achieve crossover success with the casual Wii crowd.

This isn’t My First RPG by any stretch of the imagination, but poor level design and a dodgy camera will test the patience of core gamers. If you can swallow that, you could well love Opoona…”

Click through here to read the rest, if you please.  First person to spot the sneaky porn lingo I snuck past my editor wins an official All Things Uncertain no-prize!

Here’s something to ponder in the meantime: do I want to uproot my life and move to London to take a job with Gamespot UK?

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Songs For The Dead: Not A Real Movie Review of Catch and Release

July 26, 2008 at 0:36 (Books, Movies, Rants, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Well, wow.

Every now and then something comes along and genuinely surprises you.  I didn’t have any particular expectations for Catch and Release – Kevin Smith in a supporting role drew me to it, but only enough that it’s languished on my (virtual) shelves since its release in 2006.  I only glad I finally gave it a chance; for her first time in the director’s chair, Susannah Grant makes a striking impression.  She’s written some excellent screenplays in her time, I’ll give her that – namely Ever After and Erin Brockovich – but from her new vantage point it seems as if she’s been better able to bring out the nuances of her script: the cast positively bounce out of the screen, witty, verbose and true.

Everyone loves Jennifer Garner, and I may finally have to give up on Sheriff Seth Bullock – Timothy Olyphant comes into his own again, despite a fairly underwritten role as the other half of Garner’s inappropriate rebound relationship.  On the other hand, the script has too much time for Sam Yaeger’s Dennis, who does not convince as another of Garner’s unrequited admirers.  Otherwise, an excellent film.  I’d respectfully disagree with critics who’ve zoned out at the prospect of another romantic comedy and pulled out the stock “one for the ladies” nonsense to justify themselves.  Actually, no, that’s not terribly respectful at all.

To hell with it: they’re wrong about Catch and Release.  It’s a warm character piece with an honest-to-goodness heart of gold.  Kevin Smith is everything that’s right about this movie.  As a rather less profane version of himself, he’s cuddly, considerate and clever.  In fact, Catch and Release feels very much like the sort of flick he’d be making now if his dip into the mainstream with the ill-fated Jersey Girl hadn’t gone so awry.

At the end of the day, my possible man-crush on Kevin Smith is not the only – nor even the best – reason to see this film.  If you have a heart, Catch and Release will sing to it.

Of course it’s made me melancholy in all the usual ways.

I’ve brooded thoughtfully about the landing considering if this is the perfect time of night; I can hear cats squawling from the gardens and I feel an inappropriate urge to break the eerie silence with very loud Guns N’ Roses.  But the other half sleeps…

Bah.

***

Stay tune for an impromptu Haruki Murakami week.  There’s an embargo to obey but this morning’s post brought a copy of What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, a memoir-come-rumination on age and countless other subjects, and the latest of his work to see English translation.  I’ve still got the read the thing, but expect a review here in the next ten days.  In the meantime, I’ve a review of his last novel, After Dark, to repurpose from Amazon, and a circuituously connected piece on another Japanese weird-fiction sensation in the making: Yoko Ogawa.

So.  Cats, earlobes and other Murakamian artefacts.  Fun!

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Mistakes and Regrets at Electronic Three

July 19, 2008 at 13:57 (Books, Horror, Hype, News, Rants, Reviews, Video Games) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

My apologies, dear uncertainites, for the downtime these past few days.  Excuses include: I’m nowhere near E3, but I’ve been covering the convention from afar on the Ace Gamez blog.  And I totally called itAnimal Crossing on the Wii; lots of Little Big Planet; downloadable Ratchet and Clank episodes; and more besides.  But the point isn’t to boast – I have no particular insight, yet the only real surprise of the electronic three was Final Fantasy XIII on the Xbox 360.  And that, in itself, makes perfect sense.  Squeenix have a history of platform loyalties that aren’t loyalties at all, but canny decisions.  This is just the next decision.

For all that could have been, then, a toast.

If there’s a conference next year – and sadly, it really is a case of if and not when – I think I might make the trip.  I’d get press credentials, but I’d need a laptop, airfare, commitment.  In the twilight years of E3, I’m certainly not alone in wondering: is it still worth it?

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The Solace of Certainty

July 8, 2008 at 8:21 (Movies, News, Rants, Reviews, Video Games) (, , , , , , , )

Last week, I booted up my big black shiny lean mean grilling machine to download the 2.4 update.  It brought in-game access to the cross-media bar, apparently, and trophies – as if we need another metric by which to measure our e-penises.  But we all know how this story ends.  The 2.4 firmware borked a few PS3s; Sony shortly withdrew it and returned to their programmer mancaves with hearts weighty with sorrow.  My console survived the update without injury – I suspect most did; crafty fanboy buggers on the internet, you see, they have ways of making you think there are more of them than there are.  I turned it off.

This morning, I turned my PS3 on to download 2.41.  I turned it off again.

I kid you not

When exactly is Metal Gear Solid 5 coming out?

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A Detective, Darkly: A Review of Tana French’s In the Woods

June 22, 2008 at 2:22 (Books, Crime, Reviews) (, , , , , )

One Summer night, two decades ago, three missing children.  Peter, Jamie and Adam.  For them, the woods that reach around Knocknaree have been a home away from home.  They’ve picnicked in the ruins of an dilapidated old castle, made mischief in their favourite clearing, but they’re almost in their teens; adult enough, at least, to understand that change is in the air.  Jamie’s mother is about to send her to boarding school, and the children know that her looming absence will mean the end of the precious bond that ties them together.  They take to the woods.  It’s as easy a decision for them as A, B, C.

As day draws on and the evening gives way to a forbidding darkness, the police are called in to comb through the forest.  After hours of searching, aided by townspeople and fearful parents, they find only Adam, catatonic against a tree.  His shirt has two appalling tears through it; his shoes are sodden, black with blood.  He survives, but his memory fails.  Ryan grows up an amnesiac, unable to remember anything about the night his innocence was stolen – along, presumably, with the lives of his closest friends.

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The Last Remnants of Hope: Japan and the 360 RPG

June 12, 2008 at 8:06 (News, Rants, Reviews, Video Games) (, , , , , , , , )

I try to write a news story and this is what I come up with:

http://www.acegamez.co.uk/blog/2008/06/last-remnants-of-hope-360-and-rpg-in.htm

I’m not going to cross post because wordpress won’t let me embed trailers from gamevideos, and I gah at the thought of wading through the Web 2.0 filth to source them elsewhere – but do check it out.

In other news I’ve been assigned the Ace Gamez review of Final Fantasy: Crisis Core on the PSP, which means, at the least, that I’ll play a game that otherwise I probably couldn’t condone spending much time with at all.  Here’s to new experiences – like 40 hours spent squinting at a tiny screen with persistent earbud-ache!

40 hours, I should add, that I won’t be spending finishing up GTA IV or getting started on Snake’s final mission: Guns of the Patriots.

Wait, is that a 6′ Solid Snake figurine I see in the post this morning?

Old Snake

Oh yes, yes indeed.

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