Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Internet Love

Breathtaking...in that sexy tingle sort of way. /blushes

Originally saw it via Kotaku's Fine Art series, but above shot sourced from Alessandro Taini's blog here, where he also has some beautiful images from Enslaved and Heavenly Sword on display.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Snapshot Friday!

Over the past year I have become quite the Instagram addict. At first it was innocent fun, taking photos with my poor outdated iPhone 3G and saucing them up with a small selection of pre-programmed filters, but my obsession quickly snowballed. First, all of the pictures I uploaded to my various social networks began to take on the Insta-finish. Most of the photographs that I post here have been uploaded straight from my phone after being modified via this, the most holy of apps. Then I found a tag filter, much like Twitter, and started browsing for likeminded people specifically in the #xbox and #halloween sections. Then came the followers and the followees. And it’s been a blur ever since, with my photo count now at around 400 uploads. I love to heart beautiful photographs, spending entire evenings just browsing these intimate moments in time shared by people all over the globe.

I soon discovered that the Xbox tag contained a few trends. There is the usual half-nakie ladies, stroking their controllers while declaring their enthusiasm for Black Ops in an obvious cry for male attention. Others are as simple as the depiction of a console, controller or game box in an artful way. My absolute favorite, however, is the ‘my kitteh loves to use my controller as a pillow’ shots. And they are UBIQUITOUS. No matter how you feel on the subject, we now live in a virtual world where cats are king. It’s gone so far that I just recently viewed a Powerpoint slideshow on the super serious topic of international airfare tariffs, and the whole thing was littered with pictures of LOLcats. So it’s no surprise that Instagram currently has 436,865 photographs in its database currently tagged ‘cat’. Finding so many cats snuggled up to 360 controllers in #xbox is delightful…well, especially when you are me, and the perfect happiness equation looks something like:

ice cream + xbox controllers(cats + internet pictures) = ZOMG

Here are my contributions to the ever-growing community of folks who love their felines and their video game accessories in equal measure. And just to show that my kitty believes in equality, here is Mina with both her white and black plastic pillows.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Lord of the Thongs

Approximately eleven months ago I typed these words on this blog: I hope they make another Deathspank...but not for at least a year. Now, I am not saying I am psychic or in cahoots with Hothead or anything, but I am pretty sure the release of The Baconing coinciding with my previous statement means I am a genius. Or it’s a total coincidence. Either way, hooray! Another chapter of Deathspank is upon us! I love this series like I love bromance movies and television shows about babies. When news headlines are full of nothing but grim forecasts of the future or whiny politicians pretending they know anything about how real people live (/takes a deep breath), it’s lovely to delve into something specifically designed to make you giggle. Deathspank is action-adventure role-playing at it’s very lightest, with full-color, cartoonish backdrops, easy weapon choices and auto-loading armor, allowing the player to settle in and merely enjoy the scenery with semi-glassy eyes if they so choose. I could criticize the game for these elements alone (when all you have to do is travel from one area to another and occasionally mash buttons, how mechanically interesting could it be?), but I am a diehard apologist for the overall interactive experience, where the story and setting matter more than the mechanic. In lieu of elaborating on this idea, I will just say that this topic has been mulled over by peeps who have done extensive psychological and analytical research on the matter, whereas I only care about how I personally interact with the games I play. And I am here strictly to talk about multi-colored thongs, bacon fire and orphans. And how they all connect to a building called the Pleasuretorium.

The Baconing starts with Deathspank learning that he has erred dramatically by tugging on all five thongs of power at once. This makes total sense, as wearing five pairs of underoos at once would be a tad snug, but apparently doing so has also made them quite unstable. Now Deathspank must travel to several different lands to seek out the locations of legendary bacon fire, which is the only thing that will destroy such objects of power, as well as searching out his arch nemesis and shadow character, Antispank. Along the way he gets help from orphans and meets up with many of the characters from the previous chapters. Each area is themed, with a love-bot infested Pleasuretorium in a post-Cold War infused theme park and a leprechaun inhabited Casino in Rainbow’s End. My favorite was Valhalla Heights, a retirement community for Norse gods…and Elvis? Anyway, you get to play mini-golf with Thor and dive into the Underworld to save Hades and mail some hellish property deeds. One of my favorite missions involves doing twelve tasks for old geezer Zeus, who is hunched over a walker, in order to become a god. After two deeds (mainly landscaping in nature), he asks Deathspank what number he is on and DS replies “TWELVE. This is definitely the last one!”

As a whole, the game hasn’t changed much from the previous chapters. As opposed to being boring or repetitive, though, it was comforting not being forced to learn a new inventory management system or weapon selection process and could instead focus primarily on the elements I like best–the story and the setting. Because even at its most random and ridiculous, I greatly enjoy the flow of this series. I am fond of the contained, hilariously themed areas, and the step-by-step mission layer in each that builds to a level boss crescendo. This sort of rinse and repeat progression keeps the game from sinking into anything resembling serious, as the kinds of missions undertaken are usually a touch juvenile in nature. For example, one mini-quest has our hero, the !Ultimate Vanquisher of Evil!, spiking a lovely fountain with poo to further provoke a feud between rival princesses in the Forbidden City. I can’t help but lose myself in the ambiance of the game, even if it isn’t terribly heart engaging or thought provoking. By not having to think too hard about my next step, I can enjoy the game purely for the colorful and well-designed environments our hero traverses during his main quest while taking on mini-quests akin to eating ice cream bites or buttered popcorn-merely a diversion from the central storyline, but just as satisfying in their snack-like qualities.

I recently played through Torchlight and am currently co-oping through Crimson Alliance with the husband. As bored as I was in Torchlight, I am finding that the basic story parameters of Crimson Alliance are far more engaging, especially since it’s a buddy game at heart, encouraging players to find real world partners in order to maximize the experience. But although at their core these games have almost everything in common with Deathspank-the action adventure RPG, the level up of characters or weaponry, an intricate, stat-filled inventory system, epic smashing of barrels and jars to collect coins and trinkets-I have much less to say about either of these more ‘serious’ titles, even though they are generally thought to be ‘better’ games. I suppose those who support more serious endeavors to invest their precious time in would find Deathspank quite immature and ultimately too ridiculous to even bother with a demo, but I think the creativity and ingenuity of Hothead, with what appears to be a now ongoing franchise, should be held just as high as the traditional dungeon dive arcade titles. Deathspank is silly fun, perfect for an arcade title, with beautiful graphics and a rather intricate storyline-even if that narrative has zero serious qualities. I think it’s probably time I download Monkey Island…considering I have yet to play it… /cringe

Best part about writing this review? Adding the word “Deathspank” to my MS Outlook internal dictionary.


Confused, Please Explain

Let me see if I understand...

1. Smoking Hot Dante:

2. Younger Dante, also Ridiculously Good-Looking:

Why is everyone in such a tizzy about his appearance? I think ya'll are crazy.

DmC looks amazing.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Still Alive

I could sit around feeling guilty about not meeting my personal goal of seven posts in August, but instead I am going to give myself a pass. Life is made of busy and I checked off two or three of the 'top life changes that cause the most amounts of stress' in only four weeks while managing to remain upright and breathing, which I consider a win. I am currently fluttering about in both El Shaddai and Deathspank: The Baconing, but instead of chatting about those yet, here is a highlight reel from the small bits of gaming I have been doing since I finished Bastion:

Alice: I finally finished Spicy Horse’s newest chapter of Wonderland: A Study in Cuckoo Insanity. It took me roughly the entire month of July to play, which should give you an indication on the scope and size of Alice’s journey. Completing this game is a testament to two things: my love of beautiful imagery in games and my often foolhardy vow to see something through until the bitter end. But no matter how gorgeous the scenery, this game is way too long-much, much lengthier than it needed to be. I imagine that die hard platformer devotees may lap this one up like cream, but I was exhausted by the time the experience was over. Even the narrative was only so-so. In the end, it was the visual aspects that provided the most reward. If Spicy Horse had designed two or three more chapters, culling the current ones down and infusing new ones with more variations in the stylization, I think I would have been more content. As it stands, Alice is quite pretty, but also quite dull. My feelings of accomplishment almost outweigh my regrets of wasted time and effort when surely there are better experiences to be had.

Child of Eden: It only took one level in the newest version of Rez for me to realize that no matter how brightly rendered and aurally beloved a game is, if it’s frantic in nature, I must put it aside. I have a complex relationship with anxiety, so when my heart is racing and my white-knuckled hands are still gripping the controller long after the level has ended, I know I am in trouble. In saying that, however, I can see that everything about this game is glorious. As a living narrative character, Lumi is painstakingly beautiful. Her innocence and grace introduced the game in such a captivating way that I swear I wanted to write epic poems about her hair and drag out brushes to paint her luminescence across the world one concrete wall at a time. I wish I were up to the task that Child of Eden sets before its player, but alas, my eyes are too big and my poor nervous system is too small.

From Dust: I only tried the demo for this one, as after confidently purchasing a few too many titles that ended up being less than savory, I have started dipping my toes before I commit. And…it was okay. I had a lot of high hopes for From Dust and most them abstract in nature, just relying on another beautiful setting to wrap me in its loving arms even while the miniscule story elements trail doubt behind in skeptical swirls, knowing me better than I know myself. Manipulating the environment is extra huggable, and I could pretty much do just that for hours on end. There is something quite calming about the flow of the water and the brief blip each time a palm tree grows in the sand. So I was quite peeved when a timed interaction completely broke my glazed-over sense of peace and tranquility. In a game that appears very ebb and flow, throwing in a holy-crap-a-tsunami-you-have-to-get-over-there-pronto mechanic is just mean. I am pretty sure that I will try this one again at ‘some future point’ when I have an extra $15 that isn’t already dedicated to Starbucks lattes or Halloween crafting materials. Imagine a lovely rainy autumn night, when the sun has just sunk below the horizon at 5pm and the room is lit by only a few candles and some purple running lights. A blanket covered in little bat patches is snug across my lap, a hot cup of peppermint tea is steaming nearby and From Dust is magically on sale for $10. When that happens, I’m sure I’ll document the experience.

Catherine: This one I still have in my ‘in progress’ column. I started it a couple of weeks ago and loved the bits that made it a mega-loony, interactive anime with innovative, thought-provoking questions, but am pretty bored with the block puzzles. I totally understand the metaphor concerning the subconscious grappling that our hero Vincent is doing during his sleepy-time hours about his K-C-atherine problems and relationships in general, but hot damn, I wish it were more like his waking hours, where I get to wander around a bar, chat with my friends, tool about on my mobile phone, toss back a pint or three, and occasionally play a few rounds of the arcade hit, Rapunzel, after messing about on the jukebox a time or two. Sometimes I think that the great thinking games, those designed for hardcore story lovers, are wasted through actual game mechanics. I would be just as happy playing the game if it were primarily investigative rather than puzzlicious. Either way, I know I will end up back in dreamland with Vincent and his wooly dilemma soon. This one is definitely still in the pending pile.

Beyond periodically mucking about in video games in August, we also attended PAX a couple of weekends ago, where for the most part I left the television gaming to those patient (and younger-bodied) enough to wait in long lines behind to participate in a lot of table-top gaming and dungeon diving in the basement annex as I learned how to properly take on a creature encounter in DnD. Of the few digital games I played, my experiences were surprisingly poor. I jumped into a demo of the new Assassin’s Creed Revelations multiplayer midway through its ten minute timer, which was disarming and totally icky. The headphones were broken and the screen kept telling me to ‘listen to the whispers around you for clues’. Yeah, can’t. One of the players in the demo was obviously a tad more experienced, so basically I spent 5 minutes getting stabbed and waiting to respawn. After patiently standing in a short line to try a run in the new SSX, the exhibitor decided to switch the demo over to NBA Jam the minute it was my turn and refused to do anything other than shrug even when everyone in line behind me booed in disappointment. Due to the long lines and high walls surrounding the Gearbox booth, I totally lacked the motivation to see the Borderlands 2 demonstration, which I figured would pop up online post-event anyway (yep, totally did). Boo on you, triple-A’s…boo on you.

After venturing up to the new Indie Hall (Expo Hall Part Two) on the 6th floor, I tried Armillo, a 3-D pinball-like game set on a spherical landscape (planet) filled to the brim with Sonic-y critters needing to be rescued. The ball is a fuzzy little fox-armadillo hybrid who rolls up in the cutest way. As adorable as the game was, I can’t even imagine buying it, but I did love the little paper craft Armillo the rep gave me. I tested another indie title, Vessel, which was graphically stunning and quite fun to play, but my experience was tarnished by an exhibitor for the game who spent most of his time charming a Media dude and sighing heavily every time I would ask him any questions about the game, either barely responding with one word answers or pointing sarcastically (I swear, it happened). Either way, my PAX experience in the Expo Hall arena was pretty blechy compared to previous years. But the panels I attended, mainly Acquisitions, Inc and the ACR in the main stage, were full of the normal PAX awesomeness, so I can’t complain too much.

Plus we made fantastic Halloween pipe cleaner art in line for the last round of the Omegathon, which still, days later, delights me to no end.