July 2008 - petrostudio LLC
So having played through the first chapter of Alone in the Dark, the Atari update to the classic adventure game, I have only one thing to say.
I don’t want to play this damn game.
Ok, so I have a few more things to say.
First of all, you just need to peruse the critics’ scores to get a sense of the playability of this, um, thing. I think I like Team Xbox’s abstract the best. Comparing it to a nice car without a functional engine:
Alone in the Dark is just that, a game going no place and with no reason in the world to suffer it.
Survival horror as a genre is interesting to play. Though not my favorite genre, I do remember the first Resident Evil on the PSOne, making my sister sit with me while I played and having to pause every 2 seconds to change my shorts. I had a similar feeling playing F.E.A.R. (the original, not the crappy sequels NOT made by Monolith), having to get up every couple of minutes to shake off the ooky feeling.
But this title made me feel ill. I don’t mean grossed-out ill, I mean motion sickness, vertigo ill, and not from the tall building setting of the first level. Switching back and forth between bad 3rd-person (with an uncontrollable camera) to bad 1st-person in order to do certain tasks literally made me queasy.
Until Jeff Gerstman was fired from Gamespot.com (and all the rest of the qualified staff left, too), I would have trusted their reviews on a title like this. But judging from the review of this game (given a 6.5 out of 10 but faulted so heavily in the reviews I wonder what they were smoking) is inconsistent at best.
I’ll simplify it for you all. Don’t play this game. It sucks.
And I refuse to finish it. Gamefly, send me the next one.
EDIT: I didn’t even mention the story. That’s because I have no idea if it has one.
2004’s Hellboy was a highly anticipated and exciting ride. Director Guillermo del Toro was coming off of Blade II (which was mediocre) and was yet to receive real critical acclaim in the states (his previous big-budget movie, 1997’s Mimic was, in a word, terrible).
Hellboy changed that. It led to enough cred to make Pan’s Labyrinth (which I have not seen but have heard nothing but good things about) and then to Hellboy II: The Golden Army (which, you can tell, takes the lessons and creativity learned making Pan to a whole new level).
Hellboy II once again stars the prolific Ron Perlman as the title character, who again does a great job of bringing a surly, angry and confused Hellboy to life. He’s just as wonderful as he was 4 years ago, but unlike the original, Hellboy II focuses on more characters, and seems to suffer from the same problems that plagued the 90’s Batman series – too many heroes. The story centers on Liz and Hellboy’s relationship, but also includes Abe and a new character, Johann Krauss, an ectoplasmic being voiced by the hilarious Seth MacFarlane.
Anyway, all that “professional reviewer” sounding crap aside, Hellboy II is good. It’s a fun ride. It’s got some great hand-to-hand fight scenes, and some incredible creature creation. It’s also got a hilarious love-lorn drinking scene and, unfortunately, a “romantic-depths” musical montage. Ick.
And yes, Selma is smoking, as always (pun intended). But she get’s second fiddle, really, and Liz’s issues in this film just don’t seem to have the weight of the first film.
So, I enjoyed it. I’d see it again. I’d buy it. But was the original better? Yes.
But I have a different take. First of all, kudos to Chris Nolan for not just remaking the first movie with a different villain. “Batman Begins” was about reconciling the demons within with the world without – the duality of becoming that which you fear in order to strike fear into those around you.
The Dark Knight is about the demons in ALL of us. It’s much darker, much grittier, and a tale of not compromising who you are just because it is easier – not becoming that which you are fighting in order to defeat it.
Yes, Ledger is great. GREAT. His performance is not just “playing crazy” but true character work as the Joker. If you see it for no other reason, see it for that.
But equally great is Eckhart as Harvey Dent. His transformation into Two-Face is believable, not only because the story is written so well, but because Eckhart imbues Harvey Dent with the passion he needs to be so great as a crusader against crime and, ultimately, a man who is so betrayed by the system he fights within that he gives up all responsibility to the haphazardness of chance.
And let’s not forget Bale. Bale’s Bruce Wayne is what shines. We know that Batman is a symbol, an idea – not a person. Wayne is the person, and the nuance and fear and anguish that Wayne shows as a result of letting Batman consume him is worth mentioning. As “V” says in V for Vendetta, “Beneath this mask there is an idea… and ideas are bulletproof.” Batman cannot be destroyed, he is infallible – but Bruce Wayne is a human, and thus can waver.
And he almost does, if not for Harvey Dent. Bruce says at one point, “I believe in Harvey Dent,” and so he must.
It seems frivolous to say so, but I must also commend Gary Oldman for Gordon – as we know from the last film, for a man that seems like a natural to play an over-the-top character like the Joker, his subtle, driven Gordon is refreshing, and wonderful.
Chris Nolan is a great writer and filmmaker. And that shows in The Dark Knight, not as a superhero action movie, but a film about human nature, and all its facets: Batman’s sacrifice, Harvey Two-Face’s chance, Gordon’s justice and the Joker’s unpredictability. This is a story, a compelling story, first.
“That chopper is still up there. Like Airwolf. I love that.” You can’t help but laugh at the inanity of some of the comments that the comic foils Sweetwater and Haggard make throughout Battlefield: Bad Company. They even make fun of the “Sarge” and his grasp of overused war-movie squad-leader Sergeant clichés. And you, Preston, the “New Guy” are seemingly as inept as the rest of these mopes.
Except the four of you, who are supposed to be a bunch of moronic misfits, seem to mow through hundreds of “elite” mercenaries and Russian troops like a supercharged John Deere. Actually, I’ll rephrase: YOU mow through hundreds of “elite” mercenaries and Russian troops like a supercharged John Deere. Your squadmates rarely hit anything and when they do it seems mostly like an accident. I think they know it, too.
Ridiculous story and standard FPS gameplay aside, the graphics and sounds are great, and the destructive environments really add to the fun. The acheivements reflect this on the 360, with multiple points for destroying buildings, people and, yes, even trees. It’s just fun to play.
But don’t expect a breakthrough. And don’t let the “Battlefield” name fool you – this is in no way realistic combat. I got hit in the face multiple times by depleted uranium tank shells and walked away with nary a scratch.
Worth playing? Yes. Worth buying? No. You can finish this in 2-3 days of casual playing (probably 8 hours or so total, which seems to be the “norm” for FPS’s these days – when did that happen? Gamefly it. I did.
I love to read about “old New York”. Something about the fortuitous combination of culture, location, geography and history that combined to create such a unique place seems like a microcosm of the world at large, to me. In this case, as in many, the phrase “it’s no accident” doesn’t apply. New York City, like life on earth, is a happy accident, and experiment in humanity.
Of course, as a self-described New Yorker, when you see a book entitled “The Island at the Center of the World“, you immediately think, “damn straight”. But the underlying concept behind this book, that the Dutch influence of the original colony of New Netherland has far more influence on modern America than we imagine, adds an even more interesting twist to this already epic story.
Henry Hudson, an Englishman, discovered the city and river that bears his name by accident – he was looking for the Northeast Passage to Cathay. He was sailing for the Dutch at the time, mostly because the English thought he was, to be blunt, a little crazy. The land from Connecticut to the Chesapeake Bay was all claimed by the Dutch, and the colony of New Netherland was founded by the West India Company, and thus was more of a corporate than governmental concern. Its job was to make money, and was therefore run as more of a dictatorial fiefdom than a true colony.
But the Dutch penchant for tolerance was what made it special, and has implications through the ages, down to the modern day.
Shorto’s book describes the findings and translation of thousand of pages of New Netherland records and, I assume, diaries and correspondence from figures like Peters Minuit and Stuyvesant. But his discovery and fascination with another man, Adrian van der Donck, is what makes this book stand out.
Van der Donck arrived in his mid-twenties at the private colony of Rensselaerwyck in upstate New York which would one day become Albany. He was a lawyer, but served as a sort of lawman until he was replaced for what can only be assumed as too much civic duty – he seemed to care more about the people, the welfare of the colony and, apparently, the Indian culture and its relationship to the newly arrived Europeans.
He was too liberal, even as part of a liberal community.
In New Amsterdam, however, he truly shined. From his political maneuvering, in which he ingratiated himself with Stuyvesant and then turned on him for the colony’s greater good, to the ten tireless years spent in the Netherlands fighting to attract (quite successfully) colonists to the New World, to his final, sad death on his Bronx estate, Van der Donck is a truly interesting and I daresay heroic figure.
But what is more charming about Shorto’s work is the fire it seemed to start – a burning for more knowledge regarding the forgotten Dutch colony. History is written by the victors, yet so much of New York and our whole society is informed by this lost settlement. Half of New York is named Dutch, and much of its attitude is clearly informed by its tolerant New Netherland roots. And language, from “Brooklyn” to “boss” to “cole slaw” comes to us directly from our Dutch past.
What Shorto is clearly saying is that, though (or perhaps because) the records are not yet fully translated, we have not only a great picture of what this past colony was like, but so much more to learn. Like modern New York, our view of the City is constantly changing and, seemingly, never complete.
I was going to put a post up with the new Terminator trailer, but then I learned something I didn’t know before:
Wow. As a man who loves the making of films and appreciates all that it takes to create a really good effect, this is devastating. Funny, if an actor dies, you hear about it from here ’til Sunday. A legend like Stan Winston dies, and you have to search for it.
It’s official, iPhones everywhere have been updated to v2.0. The interface looks the same, but there are subtle tweaks here and there, mostly to the back-end. But the real story is the App Store. App Store – where have you been for a year?
I’ve used some great web apps for the past year – Facebook, Pownce and even Bank of America had great mobile apps for iPhone. I’ve also discovered FarFinder, which isn’t necessarily for iPhone specifically, but has a fantastic browser for Safari. If anyone is looking for a way to access, upload, download and email files from your Mac while you are on the road (through any web browser), FarFinder is the way to go.
So there are great apps for the iPhone as part of the v2.0 software and the App Store. AIM is an obvious choice – putting instant messaging on the iPhone at last. Why Apple hasn’t created an iChat for iPhone yet is beyond me (since Apple doesn’t put out a product unless they can do a superb job – no Flash plugin yet – I can understand why they haven’t done this yet). Bank of America has basically ported their web interface to a native app, as well. Facebook and Myspace have sleek and easy to use interfaces, and the Apple Remote is a nice app for controlling iTunes on any synced computer without even waking the host box.
Most of the apps below are for web services that already exist, but for which a new app has just been released for iPhone. This is the way I discovered some of these services, so companies would be smart to jump on the iPhone App Store bandwagon if they want to attract people they couldn’t beforehand. All of these apps are also FREE, by the way.
So on to the gems I’ve found. Whrrl is a Google-based website service that maps places you (and your friends, or the Whrrl community) have been, and reviews of such places. It seems very handy for finding restaurants, clubs, etc., from people you trust rather than from a site like Citysearch or Yelp.
The iPhone app is pretty nice – the only complaint I would have is controlling the map is a bit of a pain. I wish it behaved more like the Google Maps application, but perhaps it will be updated in the future. There’s also no way to ADD new places in on the iPhone – for that you have to use a browser.
The key to Whrrl, as with all “social networking” apps and sites? Getting your friends to actually sign up, look at it and then post. So far I’ve got 2 friends who accepted my invitation, and 1 of them actually rated a restaurant! Wow, that’s, like, 1 more reader than I have on this blog!
Shozu is a neat little app that aggregates a lot of different site services in one place, and allows you to post images to those sites. For instance, I have Snapfish, Facebook, Twitter, my Blogger sites and Qipit (check that out… very cool idea) set up inside Shozu. I take a picture, and I can upload it to any of these services from one app. I can also download feeds from Flickr (you need friends on any of these services to really work – see my above comment), read and reply to comments, update your status and more.
I guess you can even Geo-tag… but this idea’s gotta be more interesting to people that actually TRAVEL. I mean, 50 pictures all taken in my house is not that interesting to check out.
The posting isn’t perfect – I sent this image to my family blog with tags and all, and none of that came through. It also didn’t really format the post the way I like, but I can see how this would be great for updating friends and family on the go from anywhere, to all your services at once. Sending images to Snapfish right from your phone would be great for family members who prefer to get prints, as well.
Finally, a new service I just found, thanks to an inadvertent mention on a friend’s Facebook status yesterday. Pandora (once again a web service with a new app for iPhone) is amazing – it’s made by the Music Genome Project, which analyzes music to determine “…up to 400 distinct musical characteristics…” – basically, figures out what about a song makes it like OTHER songs. So, you input an artist or song that you like, and Pandora searches the database to find other artists and songs with similar characteristics.
So much better than Amazon’s “people who bought this great music also bought this shitty music you might enjoy!” Qualitative over quantitative data, baby.
It’s great to see that two artists you like are related musically, but also to find new artists whose work you immediately, strangely love. And the great thing? It works in the car, over Edge, driving around.
Stick around for more reviews as more Apps become available.