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Spelunked – What I’ve Been Doing 9 July 2012 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Jul 3rd, 2012 by Dan

The cutest game to ever make you want to murder your entire family (Photo courtesy Giant Bomb)

Spelunky finally arrived last week and it was GLORIOUS! So good, as a matter of fact, that I managed to rack up 21 hours in it while taking a day off to go to Pennsylvania to celebrate the 4th. Spelunky is razor sharp, guys. Razor sharp.

Movies

21 Jump Street – I can’t think of another trailer in recent history that has inspired more ambivalence upon the people I know, but I was secretly amused by it. It turns out that it’s because it’s an amusing movie. It’s not as funny as The Other Guys, but it’s got a similar vibe. Plus it’s got almost every comedic actor working today in bit parts all over. It’s funny, but I wouldn’t spend more than $5 to see it. Oh, also, Dave Franco is like a little James Franco clone. It’s so weird!

Goon – Watched this again with Min since it was on Instant. The major reason this movie works is because it doesn’t make fun of Doug for being a oaf. He’s lovable and he means well and he just wants a place to belong. It’s really quite touching, just very, very violent.

TV

Louie – I’m honestly shocked that something as surreal and arty as this show can be is on FX and is doing as well as it is. I don’t know how the man on the street feels about Louie, but I know that I’m constantly impressed by its reach. Great show. That speech to Pamela in episode 6 was beautiful.

Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine – Speaking of arty shows, how crazy is the opening theme to this one? I mean, it’s called “New Wuthering Heights”, for Christ’s sake! I wonder how much of the look of the show is based on budget, but that’s actually the show’s strongest point. It doesn’t look like anything else on tv and it’s certainly more mature than most of the other anime I’ve ever seen. Fujiko is an interesting character, but, seriously, there’s not a single episode without her topless (nor can there be! She’s nude for the entire opening song).

Music

Heard a track by The Oneups this morning. Reminded me that they’re pretty good (if you like vidya game music)

Books

1Q84 – Haruki Murakami has never met a plot that didn’t need metaphysical, sometimes bizarre sex to advance it. Not a problem, more something to mark on your Murakami checklist. I do wonder what this means for Tengo and I worry about Aomame. Will she make it through the narrative or will Murakami use her to further motivate Tengo? What is Tengo now? Is he going to be cursed like Leader was?

Video Games

The Walking Dead – If Spelunky didn’t also come out this week I’d be drooling over this to everyone. Telltale has really figured things out and they’re knocking it out of the park with each episode. Pick it up now!

The Binding of Isaac – Came so close to knocking out the penultimate challenge. I’ll get you soon, BoI. I’ll get you…

Penny Arcade Ep 1 – Finished off a replay of this to prep for Ep3. The game has decent writing, but I think it’s less funny than the other Hothead episode (that or it’s less fresh for me?). Still, easy-ish S-Rank.

Spelunky – Gaming perfection, guys. Perfection! What Spelunky has that very few modern games do is fearlessness. Derek Yu is so confident that his game is good and that it makes sense that he refuses to put in handhold-y player incentives to coddle and usher along gamers. No, you lose “everything” when you mess up and die…everything but the knowledge that you obtained on the previous run. You’d be surprised how much you learn from each death and how things behave. Obstacles that seemed tough to deal with for me are trivial now. I’m starting to see two or three reactions ahead (chess style) of everything I do. Death only comes when I’m careless. Spelunky is hard and it wants you to move quickly, which also makes it harder, but getting that knowledge allows you to just fly confidently

Skullgirls – I picked this up to check out a sweet fighting game and support Min’s cousin msh. The first thing we did, I kid you not, was watch the credits to look for her name. Congratulations on the game credit, msh. It’s a fine game with fine art and I think it’s super cool that you worked on it. Now if only they could put the move lists, you know, in the game proper…That would be nice. I’m glad they got an official tournament at Evo this year, but I hope they’re a bigger part of the tournament next year. It’s a sharp game.

Jamestown – Hadn’t tried this game multiplayer until this past weekend with Min. Lots of fun, but the final boss is so hard!

Penny Arcade Ep. 2 – Funnier than Ep. 1 and a little more creative in its puzzles and areas too. Didn’t dig the final boss/puzzle, but it was fine. Really pumped me up to keep going with Episode 3 even though it was midnight on Sunday.

Penny Arcade Ep. 3 – Had to play this on Insane, did you, Dan? Ugh….SO HARD! I fought the Crabomancer like 20 times, but I finally beat him. Finished playing at 2AM. Whoops! This game has razor sharp RPG mechanics that I LOVE and even sharper writing than the previous two episodes since they’re not leaning on the art or voice acting as much as they could before. Loving it so far, just wish there were steam achievements.

Game Overview: Pre-Current Gen PC All-Star Runner-Up
Jun 26th, 2008 by Dan

Yeah, I know I told you that this would be posted last weekend, but things got a little hectic with my travel plans, so I decided to hold off until the day before the big finale for this one. I know you’re all on the edge of your seats waiting for the announcement, so let’s get right to it.

The final game of this category comes from a dying genre whose brief golden age drove the development of narrative, graphics, and voice acting. Here are some more clues:

1. The recently VERY troubled studio that produced this game used to put out tons of games in this genre, but has since abandoned the genre to produce games based on the very lucrative movie licenses it owns. If you’re sharp, you already know the company and genre I’m referring to at this point.

2. The protagonist of this game has the unique ability to hold his breath for 10 minutes at a time. Astute readers already know the series, but now need better clues to narrow down the game.

3. This picture will help the less savvy readers figure out the series.

4. Final clue: This game essentially retcons the previous games because the original series creator was not at the helm. Hence, the actual secret is still unknown to this day.

Our one and only runner-up in this category is the incredible Lucasarts classic, The Curse of Monkey Island

Runner-up The Curse of Monkey Island

I should clarify a few points before I get into the CMI love, namely regarding the series creator, Ron Gilbert, and the last great Lucasarts adventure game, Grim Fandango. Ron left Lucasarts after Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge along with the other writers of the series, Tim Schafer and Dave Grossman. So, as mentioned before, the remaining team members were more or less forced to retcon and/or disregard story put forth by Gilbert, Schafer, and Grossman to further the plot of their own game. I will openly admit that, despite the awesomeness of CMI, MI2 is actually the best in the series, story and scenario-wise, but that doesn’t mean it should beat CMI on this list, in my opinion.

Also important to mention, to me, is the superb Grim Fandango. Written by the brilliant Tim Schafer, GF is one of the best adventure games I’ve ever played with an epic, funny story, great characters, and an amazing setting but it just doesn’t meet the intangible bar that CMI set, mainly due to the fact that it left less of an impression on me.

CMI just has something about it that will instantly make you love Guybrush Threepwood, so even though it can be beaten in individual categories like the story of MI2 or the setting and plot of GF, CMI is just more fun to play.

No doubt feeling some pressure from the shift in graphical style of the King’s Quest series with their seventh installment, CMI shifted to a cartoony, almost Disney look with its portrayal of Guybrush and the world around him. Gone were pixelated sprites, in were scenes and animations geared toward making you think you were playing a cartoon. If you really think about it, we’ve had cutscenes since the early days of video gaming, but most of those were rendered in-engine (nowadays some series do still render cutscenes in-engine (Half-Life, Metal Gear Solid) as a stylistic choice). CMI featured fully animated cutscenes in a seamlessly integrated art style to the in-engine graphics. Needless to say, it was and, to a degree, still is a beautiful game that makes the player feel like he’s controlling a cartoon, ages before cel-shading would start to become mainstream.

More important to the in-game immersion was the choice of Dominic Armato to voice Guybrush Threepwood. The prior two games were still a little early in the computer game timeline to feature voice acting, but I honestly believe that Gilbert, Schafer, and Grossman would be hard-pressed to find a voice actor better than Dominic Armato to voice the lovable pirate. Say what you will about the direction the series has headed since the loss of the original brains behind the series, but Armato was the best man for the job. His voice just jives with the goofy, inept, clueless, and sarcastic nature of Guybrush so well that it’s hard to skip dialog even the nth time through the game just cause you want to hear him say the same goofy lines the umpteenth time. The rest of the cast is also well-voiced, but Guybrush is the standout role, as he should be.

Plot idiocy aside, the writers for CMI definitely didn’t slack in the humor department, with snappy one-liners filling the game from opening to closing coupled with sight gags, brilliantly written insult swordfights (complete with rhyming!), and the only in-game song that could possibly give “Still Alive” a run for its money. CMI had it all in the days when the adventure game was fresh, fun, and, most importantly, still considered a viable genre. Aside from Telltale games, it seems that no one is interested in adventure games any more. That being said, it’s not like today’s gamers aren’t being tricked into playing them nowadays, between the Phoenix Wright games, Professor Layton and the Curious Village, and Hotel Dusk: Room 215 at least plenty of Nintendo DS gamers are still able to get a small adventure game fix. With Ron Gilbert getting Hothead games to publish DeathSpank, hopefully we’ll see a bit of an increase in other adventure games. Sure would be nice, I miss the genre.

Here’s one of the best in-game songs you will ever see, complete with some Insult Swordfighting:

A little fun at the expense of the KQ series:

There you have it, another era summed up in a few games. I’m not saying that these are the only good games, just that they represent some of the best. Be sure to tune in tomorrow to see my favorite games of the current generation.

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