Archive for the ‘Games’ Category

PAX Coming to San Antonio in January 2015

Saturday, April 12th, 2014

Penny Arcade Expo is coming to San Antonio January 23-25, 2015. No venue was announced, but I can’t imagine they can hold that monster in anything smaller than the convention center, since PAX Prime in Seattle has drawn as many as 70,000 participants.

This is what they call “a big deal.” And unlike Worldcon, expect most of the attendees to be under 30 rather than over 50…

Ogre KickStarter Update

Friday, May 11th, 2012

The funding period ending for the designer edition of Ogre I previously mentioned.

The total amount raised:

I would imagine that Steve is a very happy camper right now, especially considering that the original goal was $20,000…

Movie Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Written by Michael Bacall and Edgar Wright (based on the graphic novel by Bryan Lee O’Malley)
Directed by Edgar Wright
Starring Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin, Ellen Wong, Jason Schwartzman, Chris Evans, Brie Larson, Brandon Routh, Alison Pill, Mark Webber, Johnny Simmons, Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza

I saw Scott Pilgrim vs. The World recently, and enjoyed what I thought I would enjoy about it, and was slightly less annoyed than I thought I would be annoyed by.

The setup (for those of you who didn’t watch a single film in theaters for the first half of 2010; the trailers were pretty ubiquitous) is that schluby Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera, about which there shall be much more anon) splits time between sharing a tiny efficiency with his gay friend and playing bass with his band, Sex Bomb Omb, before he meets Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), the girl of his dreams, and has to fight her seven evil exes to win her affections. Actually, Pilgrim doesn’t seem quite as schluby as the trailer makes him out to be, because he previously dated a hot girl named Envy (Brie Larson) who’s now a pop superstar, and when the movie opens, he’s just started dating a 17-year old Chinese schoolgirl “with the uniform and everything” (Ellen Wong). I should point out that his schoolgirl girlfriend is cute as a button, and looks absolutely nothing like Korean model Hwang Mi Hee in the following picture:

Scott Pilgrim's 17-year old Chinese schoolgirl girlfriend looks absolutely nothing like this

Hmmmm….where was I? Oh yeah. She looks nothing like that. Anyway, Pilgrim soon throws her over for Ramona, whose evil exes come out of the woodwork to fight him in flat-out-impossible video game battles in real life. All of it is good, over-the-top fun. If you’ve ever watched a Coyote-Roadrunner cartoon and gone “Hey, wait a minute, there’s no way he could have survived that long a drop,” well then, this movie isn’t for you. I’ve never read the graphic novel it’s based on, but I’m guessing it’s very true to it.

All the evil ex fights are filled with amusing and completely insane action. The best is probably the fight with Envy’s bassist (Brandon Routh), which is not only high on the splat-fu, but also combines the absurdity of veganism giving you supernatural powers with the even more amusing absurdity of Vegan Police stripping away those same powers (“Chicken isn’t vegan?”).

The movie has a lot going for it. Edgar Wright is a hell of a director. Hot Fuzz is one of the funniest (and most underrated) movies of the last ten years, and he’s a master at keeping the action moving along at a steady clip. That aesthetic serves him well in a movie designed for Generation Twitch, in which almost every aspect of the characters “real” life has been speed up and Nintendofied. Also, although I didn’t grow up Nintendo, I’ve played enough video games that the antirealism of it (when Pilgrim dispatches an evil ex, coins rain to the floor; when he gets in a particularly good blow, a voice announces “Combo!”) was amusing rather than annoying. And the acting is almost uniformly excellent. Except…except…


Except for the Michael Cera Problem.

There are many actors in Hollywood with a broad range of characters. Michael Cera is not one of them. While he was fine in Superbad, he wasn’t any better than McLovin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) or the fat kid (Jonah Hill), and while he was also fine in Juno, he was probably the weakest link in an otherwise exceptionally strong cast. After watching both, I got the distinct impression that Cera’s range extended from teenage awkwardness to awkward teenageness. “Do you…want an actor…who can…pause………awkwardly?” He does the awkward pause thing even more frequently than Topher Grace does his “slight pause before the…eyerolling delivery” thing, and it’s considerably more annoying. There’s no reason he should have become this generation’s Hollywood go-to guy for male teenager leads over the likes of, say, Zombieland‘s Jesse Eisenberg, who looks a little bit like him. (Then again, since The Social Network is a serious Oscar contender and Scott Pilgrim wasn’t quite the hit the studio was hoping for, we all know who got the better end of that decision…)

In Juno he had a supporting role, but here he’s the center of the film. Fortunately, the nature of the film tends to accentuate his strengths and (generally) mask his weaknesses. You don’t notice his flatness of range nearly as much when everything around him is exploding. But he’s still the weakest actor here, except…

Except that his love interest, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, is if anything even flatter. Maybe this was a conscious decision on Edgar’s part, given the source material and the film’s overriding aesthetic. Maybe Ramona’s anime-hair colors are suppose to indicate that she’s every bit as useless and ornamental as the Princess in Donkey Kong. She’s a goal with a backstory, not a person.

So, can you enjoy Scott Pilgrim vs. the World if the actors playing the two central characters aren’t that great? I did. Your mileage may vary.

If you can buy into the cartoonish nature of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, this is quite an enjoyable movie (though nowhere near as good as Hot Fuzz). If you’ve ever mastered the art of mashing six controller buttons at the same time to rip off an opponent’s head, this is the movie for you.

Zardoz as 8-Bit Video Game

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Though I’ve been running this blog for a while, I only recently installed a page-hit tracking module. One of the biggest surprises is what the most consistently popular posts are: My piece on Denver airport conspiracy theories and…my review of Zardoz.

Conspiracy theories always exert a certain fascination, even if (or especially if) you don’t believe in them. But I must admit to being baffled as why a review of a bizarre science fiction film more than 35 years old continues to draw such attention.

I went looking for reasons for this inexplicable interest…and didn’t find any (beyond the usual fascination with cinematic train wrecks). But I did chance across this rendering of Zardoz as the opening of an 8-bit video game:

To bad he only did the opening. Just think of all the other Zardoz video game sequences you could have:

  • Shooting the Outlanders
  • Sneaking into the giant stone head
  • Arousing the Apathetics
  • Avoid the Renegades (every touch “ages” you one life)
  • Shooting the Hippies
  • The boss fight against crystal computer, ala the mothership in Phoenix or the flagship in GORF.

Good times, good times.

In any case, I’m sure such a game would be a lot more fun than the E.T. video game or Mamma Can I Mow the Lawn.

(Hat tip: io9.)

Not Dead, Playing Starcraft II

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

I was so busy during Halloween weekend and the election that I haven’t been blogging much here. Instead I’ve been unwinding playing some StarCraft II. I finished the Terran Campaign on medium, and have been playing some AI matches to bone up on the intricacies. (As far as I can tell, the Zerg still suck.)

Expect regular blogging to resume in a few days…

Time-Waster: El Emigrante

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

Here’s a nice time-waster for a slow Sunday afternoon: El Emigrante. You play an illegal alien on a bicycle running away from the police, and you get points for how long you can elude them, and how many police cars you can get to crash while chasing you.

Disclaimer: illegally entering a country and crashing police cars is frowned upon in most jurisdictions…

Timewaster: Bru

Saturday, July 24th, 2010

Here’s Bru, a casual online game that can waste lots of your time. (I know, just what you needed.) You flip marbles from one track to another to make them disappear, sort of like Zuma, but not timed and a lot more free-form (and thus less frustrating). Strangely addictive.

StarCraft II Due July 27 (or How I’ll Spend My Summer Vacation)

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

While I wasn’t looking, Blizzard announced the drop date for StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty. You know, the game I (and about ten million other people) have been waiting for for three years.

It may come as a shock to some readers that I play video games, since I haven’t talked about it much here. That’s because: A.) I’ve been busy, B.) I don’t have a dedicated gaming console, and C.) there hasn’t been a “must-have” title that runs on my home machine (a 24″ Core-2 duo iMac) for a while. (I avoid MMORPGs because I know what huge timesinks those would be, and I prefer not to see my writing productivity drop to zero.)

But the Warcraft and Starcraft RTS games are among the ones that I played fairly fervently in their previous installments. Also, Blizzard’s commitment to quality control means that they’ve avoided releasing half-backed “shove it out the door” games the way many other developers have.

So I expect that I will spend a significant portion of the summer killing Protoss and Zerg.

Casual gamers may not be aware of just how big StarCraft is in South Korea. How big? “Professional leagues competing in custom-built arenas for spectators” big.

There are two versions of the game being sold: a regular edition going for $59.99 (the standard price-point for A-list titles these days), and a collector’s edition. The collector’s edition has a pretty nifty array of special features:

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty Collector’s Edition Features:

  • The Art of StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, a 176-page book featuring artwork from the game
  • An exclusive 2GB USB flash drive replica of Jim Raynor’s dog tag, which comes preloaded with the original StarCraft and the StarCraft: Brood War expansion set
  • A behind-the-scenes DVD containing over an hour of developer interviews, cinematics with director’s commentary, and more
  • The official StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty soundtrack CD, containing 14 epic tracks from the game along with exclusive bonus tracks
  • StarCraft comic book issue #0, a prequel to the comic series
  • A World of Warcraft mini Thor in-game pet that can be applied to all World of Warcraft characters on a single account
  • Exclusive downloadable content, including special portraits for your profile, decals to customize your units in-game, and a visually unique version of the terran Thor unit

I can see that being tempting, especially if you play WoW. (I don’t; see above.) Unfortunately, the current price for the collector’s edition is more than a little breathtaking: $299. Now, I’ve bought more expensive books before, but not many (I’m guessing about 20 or so), and they tend to hold their value better than a collectible video game box. (I’m not an expert, but looking at eBay, I didn’t see any “collectors” editions selling for more than cover price, and certainly none over a few years old.)

And Blizzard: You might want to update that FAQ.