Thursday, May 14, 2009

There's cute, and there's cute, and then there's this.

I've mentioned that lately I've been brushing up on my experience with survival horror games, a quest that's taken me through quite the range of materials. The game I've been considering lately is an oldie: Capcom's Sweet Home, released in 1989 for the Famicom.

It's a gem in its own right, combining early RPG elements with some surprisingly forward-reaching features like permanent death, and I'd like to discuss it in more detail. But right now I'd like to share something completely unrelated, which I stumbled upon while scouring the internets for anything on Sweet Home.

Dear readers, I give you Chi's Sweet Home.

I know, right? The Western world, with its Lolwhatevers and its cute overloads, has been lulled into a false sense of cute superiority. Somewhere in its all-encompassing quest to be adorable, Japan has cracked the "Cute Code." It turns out that the only thing more precious than a little kitty playing, eating and sleeping is a little kitty that SINGS ABOUT IT.

In the spirit of the riddle that asks "how do you kill that which has no life?," we arrive at another ontological impasse: How can you 'out-cute' a culture that even has a cuter way of saying 'cute?'

I sure as heck don't know. But I do know that for those interested in the further misadventures of a certain chibi chibi neko-tan, more episodes can be viewed here.

Be warned: I'm pretty sure too much of this stuff can give you the diabeetus.

- Rook

Monday, May 11, 2009

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love a Lady Who Is Actually The Bomb

I appreciate how King’s interpretation of our ‘glory days’ has my wife out of the house, and us on the couch. Could this be the beginnings of a budding bromance? Or at least a bromantic comedy?

I’m only surprised that Mountain Dew isn’t involved, somehow, as if our palates had regressed to some stunted teenage state. Once upon a time, ten thousand cups of coffee ago, it was DRINK of CHOICE, if never exactly the CHOICEST DRINK. Parents of the world! You don’t need to bat an eye when your boys start showing interest in girls. But when they start to show an interest in single malt Glenfiddich, then it might be time for The Talk.

First on the block has been Braid, a task that was in turns exhilarating, tedious, rewarding and oppressively inert. I find it curious that a game advertised as one that “treats your time and attention as precious” would have a secret item that you have to literally sit still and do nothing for an hour and a half to acquire. Waiting for the glacially slow cloud to whisk us from one side of the map to another, King and I employed our newly reclaimed precious time to the fullest, him scrambling madly to develop a vaccine for the Swine Flu, and I conference calling Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas to see if we couldn’t “get this silly little squabble out of our systems.”

Guys. Come on. Knock it off.

With global pandemic halted and peace in the middle-east secured, we returned to our game to see how our precious time had been invested. We were surprised to discover that our precious Xbox had frozen.

So we got to do it again.

Due to my nature, I am often labeled as a “completionist” when it comes to videogames, a term with which I’m not sure I’m satisfied. I tend to read books all the way through to the back cover, if for the simple reason that that’s where the end is. But it never lends itself to conversations like this:

“Hey, how’d you like that Nabakov you borrowed from me?”
“Man, it was awesome. I hundred percented it.”
“Oh, yeah? Does that unlock anything?”
“Well, it lets you re-read it, but with foreknowledge of the crushing banality of modern life that will ultimately lead to the protagonist's destruction, undone by their own unfettered wants and desires."

Also you get to dress this guy up as a clown.

I am not greedy, and do not ask for a lot out of the endings of games. Years ago I would toil for hours, if only to be presented with some warbling 8-bit ditty or pixelized animation. Perhaps this may be understood as the faintest echo of Pavlov's operant conditioning: Ring a bell, then give me a high-five. Whatever the case, it made finally collecting the eight stars in Braid worthy as a task in itself, even if the process let me feeling a little cold.

Perhaps it's that the reward of the true ending, is, essentially, a bald assertion of the very thing that all the story had been hinting towards from the get-go. How could there have been any doubt about things at this point? It all seemed to be struggling to settle for all time that classic zen koan: "When is a princess not a princess?"*

I will swallow my constant urge to spoil things, and instead couch things in ridiculously transparent entrendre instead. I mean, I know that Tim and the princess had an explosive relationship, but he just hasn’t been the same since she split. All he wanted was a nuclear family, but things began to mushroom out of control. He wanders around Manhattan projecting his failed hopes on the city, a Fat Man rejected for a Little Boy. Even after their fallout, she could always make him glow.

Oh princess. You were The Bomb.

- Rook

* When she's a METAPHOR!**

** Metaphor? I hardly touched 'hor!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Kicking it old school

This weekend Rook and intend to relive some glory days.

A couple years ago, while his wife was away, we decided to play through and beat Dead Rising and we decided to do it in high debaucherous style. I arrived late Friday night and we immediately plugged in the game swearing that we would beat it that weekend. Now, Dead Rising is a game where you play a veteran photojournalist, Frank West, locked in a mall with zombies.

Part John Maclean, part Angsty teenager, all douchebag.

The game takes place in the Willamette mall, which is located in the sleepy town of Willamette, pop. 53,000. The story tells the story of what Frank gets up to while locked in this zombie infested shopping emporium for 3 days until his helicopter arrives to extract him. What Rook and I didn’t know was that the game clock is real time. We had sworn to beat a game which takes 72 hours to beat and we only had 72 hours to beat it before his wife came home and I returned to my private estate. Screw sleep, we could do it in shifts if we had to. We were undaunted.
About 2 hours in we realized we would need sustenance. We placed an order for 3 extra large pizzas and 20 minutes later, leaving Frank in the secure mall office while we made our food sortie. The plan was that these 3 pizzas would be our sustenance for the next 3 days. Sunday was kinda gross. That weekend we smoked enough cigars to give 5 people cancer. As I said, debauchery.

Needless to say, we beat that mother f-er and swore we would do it again sometime. That sometime is now.

One of these guys is a Daddy, the other is sterile. You guess.

Rook and I have 3 days once again, but this time the stakes are higher. We plan to beat both Bioshock and Metal Gear Solid 4. I know we’re looking at two 30+ hour games and it would be doable except that we aren’t starting until tomorrow. Tonight we’re going to a birthday party and, post party, plan to play through at least one Left 4 Dead Scenario. Also, Rook needs to play Braid.

Maybe we can’t do this, but by God we need to try.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Free Thing of the Week: SNEEZE

I have a strange fascination with zero-player games - that is, games in which require only nominal input to begin, and then run their course independent of player input. The most elegant example is dominoes, though there has been a tradition of zero-player computer games that run back as far as 1970, with John Horton Conway's deceptively simple "Game of Life."

As a kid I used to plunk away at Game of Life for hours, tweaking things here and there to create bigger and more complex stable algorithms. Game of Life (which can be played online, as an applet, here) is something better demonstrated than described - a task that Neotropic9, on Youtube, does an fine job of here.

Man, that music gets me PUMPED. About LIFE.

If watching bits of date flit about your screen isn't exactly your bag, I present a livelier, timelier example... one that's also a bit more, um, graphic? SNEEZE, a simple viral simulator put together by the fine folk at Routes, lets you live out your every fantasy, providing all you ever fantasize about is sneezing on people.

Unfortunately, science has no way of knowing whether this lady s about to sneeze, or getting ready to eat that kleenex.

Irreverent AND educational. And if you're interested in plunking around the Routes page, you might want to check out their Sporelike cell sim Breeder, which encourages anonymous strangers to meet and hook up... online! Why hasn't anybody thought to do this before?

Oh, also, both you and the anonymous strangers control adorable, microbial life forms. But, really, that should go without saying. Otherwise, what would be the point?

- Rook