Bickford Shmeckler’s “Gamer” Chat

Posted December 27, 2009 by gameberry
Categories: Movie Night

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When down to the crumbs in my media pantry, I like to watch Netflix instant titles (streamed via the Xbox, natch).  Most of the offerings are 2-star ratings, so it was with great leniency that I gave Bickford Shmeckler’s Cool Ideas 3 stars.  The premise is ridiculously pretentious for a film that was superficial enough to bleach Olivia Wilde’s hair: Bickford Shmeckler is a first-year college student who is just way too philosophically mature for his partying housemates.  He keeps his mind-blowing insights about the universe in a journal called The Book.  (This is deep, so hold onto your skull: The universe is in flux!  Atoms in our bodies could have once been part of stars!  Basic science rules!).

To further illustrate Bickford’s intellectual superiority, he’s compared to his roommates, who do totally immature things like play video games.  Here’s where this flick almost lost the “meh” rating I gave it.  Bick’s gamer roommate’s single line is  (hold onto that skull again): “Watch this special move!”

Now, I’ve heard a lot of things said by a lot of different gamers while playing a lot of different games, but I’ve never heard a statement quite so generic or bland or vague uttered in real life.  I’m pretty sure that no one has ever said “special move” while playing a video game.  In fact, I’ve never heard “watch this,” either.  It’s usually “ohhhh” or “suck on it,” or– well, it just devolves from here.

“Watch this special move!” indeed.  I think you’d be laughed out of my grandmother’s Sudoku DS league for saying something like that.


You Might Cry (The Beatles: Rock Band)

Posted November 6, 2009 by gameberry
Categories: Music

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As I played through the story mode of The Beatles: Rock Band, I kept almost trashing my plastic guitar controller in excitement.  Of course, smashing the faux git-box into bits while shouting “this game is amazing, AHHH” would have ruined some of its future fun, so I restrained myself.  It’s just that no game has ever affected me in the exact way that The Beatles game does.

Naturally, it’s all about the music.  Everyone has favorite bands, those people whose music we love so much that we want to go to their shows and learn about their lives and play their albums through time, even as our other tastes change.   I can’t think of any band who means that much to more people than The Beatles.  So many of us cherish them that we can all share in the wistful, joyous experience of reliving their amazing musical history.  Harmonix lives up to the daunting task of creating a fun game that honors The Beatles, mostly by letting their incredible story and music speak for themselves.

Did I mention that the art is amazing?  I played the 360 version, so I can’t vouch for its looks on the Wii (I love you, Wii, but incredible visual experiences are not what you’re about).  The opening cinematic is worth resisting the skip-this-and get-to-the-playing impulse.  It plays out the game’s story arc in miniature, from a humble Liverpool neighborhood to a breathtaking psychedelia of sunshine, outer space, and even elephants, representing the foursome’s ride to unimaginable fame and music that evolved from “I wanna hold your hand” to pondering the universe.  The background visuals for each stage are so incredible that you might want to get a friend to play solo so you can watch without fumbling all of your own notes.  The 3D models of the fellows themselves have an adorable quality that nicely echoes how lovable The Beatles have been to at least two generations of fans the world over.

In fact, that beauty, lovability, and sonorous happiness that characterized the Beatles’ career is well-represented in The Beatles: Rock Band.  That’s why it’s phenomenal, and why it make you hate the rest of your current game library.

And if it makes you cry, no one will fault you.


Used Game Sale: My 360 Picks

Posted July 19, 2009 by gameberry
Categories: Deals

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Gamestop had a sale this weekend: buy 2 used games, get a third free. This seemed like as good an opportunity as any to fatten up the old Xbox 360 collection, so, without further ado, here are my three selections:

  • The first Gears of War, because I’m a game dev student, and it’s important for me to get better at hardcore shooters.  This is serious homework, people.
  • Mass Effect, because the husband likes space aliens and long-winded RPGs.
  • A game called Blue Dragon.  Because one of the games was free, we were able to choose something on a whim instead of poring over internet reviews, dismissing anything that flew under the radar or rubbed a few random critics the wrong way.  I remember buying NES and Sega Genesis games that way, just migrating toward an interesting title or box art, and taking a chance on one that appealed to me.  It’s a method of game shopping I haven’t used recently, and it was a fun revival.

As an aside, there was really no good reason to photograph the games chilling in my very happy moss rose plant, except that the midsummer morning was too nice not to spend outside.  Also, the fact that Marcus Fenix looks so cute and cuddly amongst the pretty flowers.

YMCK is the 8bit Sound

Posted July 16, 2009 by gameberry
Categories: Music

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Chiptune, 8-bit, bitpop– whatever you’d like to call it, there’s a definite trend in electronic music that is heavily influenced by our beloved old-school video games.  This cheerful, decidedly current brand of electronica is paradoxically composed of sounds gamers remember from 20 years ago.  The choppy, bloop-and-blip-filled, very digital music was first created on 80s gaming consoles and computers like the NES, the Atari 2600, and the Commodore 64.  All these years later, it’s become a sound that’s desirable not just as the background to a platformer or a simple space shooter, but as listenable music in and of itself.  Video game music today rarely sounds like it did back then, and maybe a nostalgia for that soundscape is what inspires bands like YMCK to recreate it. This Japanese trio is incredibly adorable, and their animated videos are clearly informed by the 8-bit graphics of the early Mario era.

As their endearingly translated profile puts it,

The most prominent feature of the band is the 8bit sound that reminds people old game consoles, which attracts the enthusiastic support from wide range of generations.

Love it!

Animales de la Muerte: Quirky Wii Horror

Posted July 9, 2009 by gameberry
Categories: Scary, wii

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A friend recently applied for a job at High Voltage Software, so I decided to check them out. Right off the bat, I liked the pleasingly retro use of the word “software” in their name. (Although on second thought, perhaps it wasn’t retro usage when the company was founded in 1994). Browsing their unusually diverse collection of past and future titles made me wonder why I didn’t already know more about them. Their current high-profile title is The Conduit, one of the few FPS outings developed for the Wii.

The Conduit seems pretty rad, but what really caught my eye was the trailer for Animales de la Muerte, a game about a zombie apocalypse in a Mexican zoo. Seeing cartoonish, cutesy animal zombies taking bites out of each other’s heads reminds me of what might happen if Left 4 Dead and Viva Piñata were left to melt in my car in the North Carolina summer, congealing into a single sweet and sickening title.  The publisher is still TBA, so here’s hoping this intriguingly weird venture has the funding it needs.

Also, I’m all for names like “Animales de la Muerte” that make me feel like I’m multilingual while barely taxing my memory of high school Spanish.

Literary as Hell: Dante’s Inferno for 360, PS3

Posted June 1, 2009 by gameberry
Categories: Scary

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One of the games I’m excited to hear more about from this week’s E3 coverage is Dante’s Inferno. Developed by EA Redwood Shores, the title is, of course, based on Dante’s Divine Comedy, the 14th century epic poem by Dante Alighieri. The Game Info from the EA page only describes the history of the literary work itself at this time. Smart move, because Dante’s visions of Purgatory, Limbo, and Paradise have been compelling enough to influence Western culture for 700 years. I’m really excited by The Inferno as source material. My only worry is that the gameplay won’t be inspired enough by the poetic text, but instead will just use “Hell” as a setting and go from there with a traditional fighting game or shooter, murdering the original story in the process. (One of the trailers actually has a witch cackling “You’ll never get the girl, Dante!”…Yikes.) It’s still a giant leap to develop a large-scale game with such a literary motif though, so I have high hopes that EA will deliver at least a little something for us lit-nerd gamers.

Phish in Rock Band (Are you still having fun, Wilson?)

Posted May 30, 2009 by gameberry
Categories: Stuff Which Rocks

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Apparently, the next batch of downloadable tracks for Rock Band are Bonnaroo-themed. I went to the first Bonnaroo in 2002, and while the music was fantastic, the sleeping in a tent and having no plumbing for days in the middle of summer was not for me. I won’t be returning to Bonnaroo this summer, but if anyone on the lineup could persuade me to endanger my safety, sanity and hygiene for a few days to attend, it would be Phish. Needless to say, I will be downloading the Phish song from this Bonnaroo track pack immediately. I can’t wait to rock out to “Wilson,” and to see if they have the vocalist player sing the opening “Wilson” crowd chant or not.

This confirms what I hoped all along, which is that the Good Hoodie from Rock Band 2 was a reference to “Harry Hood,” another classic Phish song.  We get to see Phish in Hampton and we get a Rock Band track?  2009 has been a good year for Phish fans.