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Video Games of 2013 [GO]
Jan 3rd, 2014 by Dan

Chifles

This is where a lot of the magic happened this year.

Writing this list each year is one of my favorite things to do at the end of the year. It forces some perspective on what I played and coheres my thoughts on the experiences this year. I spent less time with video games this year, to the tune of 19 fewer games played. 2013 heralded a shift toward portable games for me thanks to a rapidly maturing 3DS library and a nice, new phone.

JANUARY

Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward – If you thought 999 had the coolest story in video games, you’ve clearly never gotten around to spending enough time with VLR. The advantage of being a one-system game gives 999 a slight advantage in its huge twist moment, but VLR‘s meditations on quantum theory and its further exploration of the morphic resonance forces tons of interesting thought experiments. It’s a narrative gut punch that unravels with a brilliant pace.

The Cave – Ron Gilbert made himself a neat, interesting meditation on obsession and enlightenment, except he also mad ea game with ridiculous padding that required too much repetition of the same puzzles. It’s funny, but, sadly, I wasn’t ever able to motivate myself to go for all the endings.

FEBRUARY

Professional Baseball Spirits 2013 – I absolutely love these games, but I don’t know if I should keep getting them for a few years. I just don’t have the time to finish whole seasons any more. Maybe I should just get the last PS3 one and wait a while for the PS4 ones to get good?

Fire Emblem: Awakening – Allowing players to grind for levels was a weird decision. I think I got too distracted with grinding and lost momentum and motivation to finish the game. Still got a ways to go…It’s a strong SRPG, but I’m so distracted with other portable games that I haven’t gone back to it yet.

MARCH

Tomb Raider – Remember when I beat this game on my channel? It was pretty good. I didn’t have high expectations for Tomb Raider remade to be Uncharted, but it actually held its own pretty well. If it had a better handle on its narrative it might have ended up one of the best games of this year, but you just can’t hide significant story details in found audio or text logs…

Sim City – What a shitshow. Seriously. EA really dropped the ball on this one with the overloaded servers and poor handling of their PR. To top it off, city simulation managed to feel simpler and less deep than Sim City 3000 which, I’ll remind you, was released about 14 years ago…

Bioshock Infinite – Remember how I said that audio logs are stupid? That’s the bread and butter of this series and it’s overdone. The shooting lacked a little impact, but the skyhook was pretty fun. Supposedly this game has a cool ending and a neat story, but I’ve had trouble motivating myself to come back to this to finish my series on it.

Dead Space 3 – Played this all the way through with David. Co-op = fun and awesome. Game itself…not so much. Just a laughably bad story, but we had a good time playing it together.

Harmoknight – Tiny little rhythm game by Game Freak. I ended up not loving the timing of the button presses, but I did like the relaxed plot and creative arrangements.

APRIL

Digital: A Love Story – I don’t really remember why I ended up deciding to explore Christine Love’s oeuvre, but the fact that her first two larger releases were free probably contributed. Digital covers a time period that is slightly before my internet days (one where BBS was king) and the love story is, ultimately, not quite convincing enough, but it was interesting and it tangentially ties into Analogue

don’t take it personally, babe, it just ain’t your story – I rant to all kinds of people about how privacy in the modern era is an illusion. don’t take it personally goes and makes the argument for me. It also highlights how those of us in charge and legislating now still don’t really get it (and probably never will). Never have I seen a game do a better job at illustrating the generational gap and give both fairly substantial and even weight. The only thing I didn’t like was the kind of gross romance subplot…

Poker Night 2 – Remember the first Poker Night? It’s a little more advanced than that, but I like Ash and CL4P-TP less…

Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine – There was a fantastic couple of days where Min, David, and I just rocked most of the Monaco campaign and its prestige mode. Man, what a ridiculously fun co-op game. Especially with the way that David plays with his burrowing through every wall…

MAY

Rayman Legends – Better than Origins in some ways. Murfy is interesting too, but I have yet to play a level as cool as the treasure chase levels…

JUNE

Animal Crossing: New Leaf – Slow and leisurely. The feel-good, laid back game of the year. Animal Crossing might be low on action, but it’s so overwhelmingly nice and welcoming that it feels like the kind of world I’d want to live in. It’s just too bad that the guilt factor of being away for too long keeps me away.

The Last of Us – Yet another game I played to completion on my challenge. The chief problem with The Last of Us is that it’s just not fun to play. There’s nothing fun about the ugly violence committed by and against Joel and Ellie. It’s a brutal, depressing game that beats you down and ends with an unreasonably selfish decision that makes for a uniquely interesting ending and experience.

Professor Layton and the Unwound Future – Didn’t quite finish this one. It’s more Layton. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not gonna set anything on fire with its innovative ways.

JULY

Analogue: A Hate Story – The summer sale allowed me to finally pick up a game I’d heard such intriguing things about. Like Christine Love’s other games, Analogue is about a spaceship society that went kind of…weird. It was heavily modeled on an Joseon society that actually existed and it was a little horrifying. The way it all plays out is a little voyeuristic, but also super interesting and fun. I can’t wait to play Hate Plus to learn how the ship developed in this way.

Shin Megami Tensei IV – This is not Persona. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s odd that the two don’t borrow from each other a whole lot more. SMT IV still does things that feel so old-fashioned while Persona feels so progressive and fun. Definitely the best old-school JRPG that I’ve played in a while.

Evoland – It’s all kind of a joke, really, and not a very fun one, unfortunately.

Thomas Was Alone – You play as these little shapes! They’re so cute! There’s a really fun story! British accents!

AUGUST

Pikmin 3 – I was surprised by how much I loved this game. Allowing the player to split attention between three avatars was a brilliant move for efficient play. I’m more surprised that I haven’t yet gone back to finish it because it’s ridiculously fun.

Rogue Legacy – Sharp, tight controls. Super fun conceit with the progression of heirs. Go play it. It’s the Metroidvania/Roguelike-like of the year.

Papers, Please – Have you ever wanted to run a depressing, Soviet-style border checkpoint? Yeah…that’s this. It sounds dreary and boring and it kind of is, but that’s the secret genius of the game. The mundane tasks infect your morality and you actually start trying to game the system in a lot of insidious and awful ways. It’s kind of gross, but also very powerful.

SEPTEMBER

Didn’t start any new games in Sept!

OCTOBER

Plants vs. Zombies 2 – I don’t like playing this on my phone. It’s a silly complaint, but the game just isn’t good on that small a space. I’ll come back to it on PC.

Pokemon Y – The revolution we were all waiting for. 3D pokemon is awesome. Less awesome: the still asinine/mediocre story. I just wish Nintendo would step up the level of interest in the story if they are going to continue to try to force more and more complicated stories on the games. Other than that, the perfect pokemon evolution. Seriously awesome.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies – So it’s not the best Ace Attorney game out there. It’s lacking the influence of Shu Takami and that has a bigger impact than I would have expected. The game is more anime-y, if that makes sense, and a little less cohesive, but it’s still the best ridiculous, non-real world law simulator out there. Good times.

Hometown Story – Not good times. It’s by the Harvest Moon guy, but it feels half done and not too put together. I only gave it an hour, but I didn’t like what I played so far.

NOVEMBER

Ridiculous Fishing – Avoid the fish on the way down, hit them on the way up. Slick Disasterpeace music, neat art design, a weird story. Pretty fun way to kill time on your phone.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds – The music in this game is so…good. It’s a must to play this with headphones. The way the game handles the 3D graphics is also super fresh and vital. I wish I’d played more, but I’m saving it for after Pokemon and Phoenix Wright.

Super Mario 3D World – The most brilliant execution of game mechanics released this year. That final boss…holy cow! It’s even fun for four players, unlike some of the NSMB games. Perfection. Get a Wii U and play it.

XCOM: Enemy Within – You’d think that the new additions would be incremental and not all that game-changing, but the MEC stuff and the difficulty curve tweaks for Classic have made this game way different and way tougher, but also…more fun. Those robot suits are badass.

DECEMBER

Super Mario 3D Land3D World made me insanely curious about Land, another game people rave about. Holy eff. The way the system makes use of its 3D engine is super cool. This game is so full of brilliant platforming that feels more rewarding than anything else. It’s less ambitious than 3D World by necessity, but this game (so far) is just a wee bit better realized on its platform.

NES Remix – Less fun than I was hoping it would be. Making it more Wario-esque would have been better, I think. Still kind of neat and only $15.

Project X Zone – I think I’d need a little more time to have a definitive verdict on this, but it’s reasonably fun. I just want to play as Rockman. Right now.

The Walking Dead 400 Days – Five (very) short stories. Five (very) smartly told stories. I really do love how the vignettes say something about each person in the camp and about each person who plays the game. I only wish they hadn’t tied an achievement to the Paper, Rock, Scissors part.

The Walking Dead Season 2 – Just as polished and well put together as S1, in my opinion. I have no idea why some people haven’t liked the first episode as much. It’s tragic and brutal and just as insane.

Risk of Rain – Played a few rounds with Min and Lee. Brilliant co-op, but it feels just a touch half-done in its menus and interface. Worth continuing to investigate in 2014.

What I’ve Been Doing 30 Dec 2013 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Dec 30th, 2013 by Dan

Arepas in Boston

Yeah, this has nothing to do with a week summary. In fact, this happened in like…May, but I saw it and I love arepas and it looked so good. Mmmm…arepas…

Welcome to the last WIBD of the year! I’ve been a little bad about keeping up with this list throughout the year, but I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing what I’ve been up to and I hope to continue to talk about what I’m doing next year too.

Movies

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – Not the first time I’ve seen it, but the first time Katie’s ever seen it all the way through. Is the movie a little cheesy/corny when viewed in the 2010s? Yeah, a little, but it’s also kind of supposed to be that way. Solid fun.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – My dad randomly got way into The Hunger Games when he saw it with my brother and he wanted to watch Catching Fire, so we went to the movies early on Christmas and had us a jolly time. Definitely an exciting movie, but it’s not gonna win any awards or anything.

TV

Key & Peele – Katie and Kara were randomly watching a few episodes. Hell of a show. Super hilarious.

How I Met Your Mother – The mother episodes continue being real stand-out affairs. Loved seeing Andrew Rannells again. He’s a funny dude.

Parenthood – Yeah, the mayor campaign subplot was a little silly. I also wasn’t expecting them to cancel the wedding.

Trophy Wife – I’d heard good things about the show and I do love Malin Åkerman, so this show seemed like it would be pretty good. On the whole, it’s a little predictable, but it’s got a solid cast and makes for some good laughs. Not gonna blow anyone away with groundbreaking comedy, but I will say that I laughed pretty hard a few times.

The Amazing Race – Moving on through season 21. I’m loving watching it again. I don’t know why people disliked this season, it was super fun.

Music

I’m sure I’ve put The Weeknd’s “Wicked Games” up here before, but it’s so tight. Damn…

Books

Well Played 1.0: Video Games, value, and Meaning – Right now I’m on a good section about Shadow of the Colossus and something the author is calling “futile interactivity”, which really is an interesting mechanic that is not used often enough in games.

Video Games

Civilization V – The long break has slowed Eric and David’s ability (mostly David’s) to play turns. It’s been an agonizing wait…

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies – Still on that final case. Just found out that there’s a nefarious third party influencing things, but I have no idea where we’re supposed to proceed in this case. Getting interesting.

Super Mario 3D Land – The good times I experienced in Super Mario 3D World made me want to go back and view the source material. It makes a lot of the things I saw in 3D world make a little more sense as an extension of things introduced in 3D Land, but 3D Land uses depth in ways that are way neater, but also impossible on a non-3D system.

XCOM: Enemy Within – Another game bites the dust. Moved on to a new game and turned off the Second Wave stuff. It makes the game more interesting and tougher, but I’m having too hard a time actually winning for me to leave them on. I’ll start to remix on further playthroughs.

NES Remix – Nintendo stealth released this during their most recent Nintendo Direct. It’s a little like WarioWare, but without the zaniness. The idea is that you’re supposed to complete mini challenges with old NES classics within a time limit. Works pretty well, but some of those old games are tough. Also it’s weird that they don’t allow custom button mappings. I don’t want to use A and B, I want to use Y and B.

Pokemon Y – Barely beat that ice gym thanks to Sturdy. I mean, I almost lost, for sure. All my original team is gone/dead, so I’m down to a new set that I’m grinding up to level 50 before I try to tackle Victory Road. The Elite Four is gonna be a struggle, I know it.

Super Mario 3D World – I played this a whole bunch with my siblings over the break and…holy cow, still so good. That final world?! That FINAL BOSS?! Just an incredible moment that I totally dug. I need to talk about it more, but I’ll probably talk about it in my year end video game thing.

Project X Zone – Ok, picture this: What if Namco, Capcom, and Sega made a crossover tactical RPG game with all their famous characters? That’s what this is. I played the demo before picking it up and Ryu and Ken were battling monsters with Valkyria Chronicles dudes. Namco guys were there too (no idea who they were). It’s neat, but I don’t think I have the hang of the battle system yet. Looking forward to putting more time in next year.

Risk of Rain – Played this with Lee and Min. It starts off feeling a little thin because you’ve only got one guy unlocked, but with two we seemed to be getting the hang of it a lot more. Really fun as a multiplayer game. Can’t wait to get more time in with the guys.

The Walking Dead 400 Days – It’s short, but it’s more of that Walking Dead flavor that everyone needs. It’s full of short vignettes about companionship and survival and I really loved all the connections between the characters.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds – Unlocked the first item to rent (bow), but I haven’t entered the Eastern Temple yet. Loving the game so far.

The Walking Dead Season 2 – Just…brutal. There’s this thing that happens where Clementine’s trust is betrayed…SO GOOD.

What I’ve Been Doing 9 Dec 2013 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Dec 9th, 2013 by Dan

Benedict  – 12 Years A Slave

Weird to see Benedict Cumberbatch with a Southern accent (Photo courtesy touchedmuch)

It’s been a surprisingly movie-filled week! I don’t usually talk about the sporting events I watched here, but that was a hell of a Ravens game yesterday, wasn’t it!

Movies

12 Years a Slave – What an intense movie. Extremely well-acted and a brilliant counterpoint to Django Unchained. Where Django took revenge for slavery, 12 Years a Slave makes it a hell of a lot more personal and is that much better for it. The flick is tough to watch sometimes, but it’s the best movie I’ve seen this year (so far).

Little Big League – My favorite of the baseball movies that came out when I was a kid. Holds up remarkably well as an adult. I don’t know if Min liked it as much as Kate and I did, but it’s pretty solid.

Love Actually – I expected it to be good and romantic, but I really didn’t expect the nudity or the swearing. I thought it was tame and PG-13 type stuff, but I think it’s way more interesting this way in that it’s not sanitized or too safe. Good movie!

TV

Brooklyn Nine-Nine – Terry’s back in the field! Andre Braugher does deadpan so hilariously, but the popping and locking was even better.

The Mindy Project – Heck of a dance number in the middle of that episode.

The Amazing Race – So the finale for season 23 is on my DVR and I CAN’T WAIT TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS! I’m thinking that the Afghanimals might get eliminated and Jason and Amy might win. We’ll see!

Almost Human – I love sci-fi shows. Love ‘em. I dig shows about robots too. This is the perfect match for me. It’s pretty much a police procedural in the future at this point, but that’s cool with me. Robots! With senses of humor!

Homeland – …I dunno. Everyone’s just so unprofessional and irrational in this show. I liked that the episode was an abbreviated retelling of the first two seasons, but I hate so much about this show this season and I really hope Brody either doesn’t make it out of Tehran…or he turns on the US and becomes the big bad for season 4.

Music

I really just love “Hannah Hunt” by Vampire Weekend. I’m sure I’ve posted it here before, but we’re doing it anyway!

Books

Well Played 1.0: Video Games, Value, and Meaning – Read the essay on Ico and I’m partway through the Super Mario Bros. one. Nothing groundbreaking yet, but I love reading this kind of stuff about games anyway, so I’m not too bothered by it.

Video Games

Super Mario 3D Land – Played the first level to activate SpotPass, but I’ve been focusing on beating Phoenix Wright first so that I can get to Zelda and finish Pokemon too. So many 3DS games!

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies – Case 3 is DONE! The culprit was who I thought it was (it was really kind of obvious, actually) and I wish that I hadn’t accidentally ended up spoiling the final culprit for myself, but Case 4 is certainly intriguing so far (astronaut defendant!)

Pokemon Y – Beat Lysandre (almost lost my Min pokemon to a Mega Gyarados. He held on with 3 HP) and I’m in some cave now. Gotta get the gyms and the elite 4 done, but I’m on the home stretch. Did lose my Pidgeotto, Sawyer. Replaced him with a Marowak.

XCOM: Enemy Within – I’m on my eighth save file trying to get it going right. Game 7 was going really well…until I failed the first part of Progeny and Daniel and David died. Then I completely wiped on Slingshot’s first mission, losing Katie, Molly, Lee, and Kunal. Another wipe meant I had to restart. MEC suits kick ass. Can’t wait to get it going again.

What I’ve Been Doing 18 Nov – 04 Dec 2013 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Nov 19th, 2013 by Dan

Stay Hungry With Adam Jones

Hashtag Stay Hungry

Remember that charity thing a million years ago? Here’s the picture we took with Adam Jones. Pretty cool.

Movies

30 for 30: The Band That Wouldn’t Die – I don’t remember if I classified the last 30 for 30 I watched as a movie or not, but for the sake of filling out this section, why not, right? As for the documentary itself, what a neat portrait of football in MD. I would never have realized the depths to which the city loved that old team and how heartbroken they were. Made me really excited to see the band at that Ravens/Jets game I went to.

TV

The Amazing Race – Between current episodes, lunch break episodes, and episodes with Katie, I’ve seen about 20 to 25 episodes of the race between posts. Not regretting a single episode. It really is an addictive bit of television and the only reality competition I can (more than) comfortably stomach.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine – Best new show of the year, by far. “Terry needs nutrients!” “Where’s the buckle, Santiago?”. Brilliant stuff. Very funny. Why aren’t you watching this? The fireman/police rivalry reminds me of the parks/libraries rivalry in Parks & Recreation

New Girl – “Hey Jason Street” made me laugh so much. If you don’t get it then you haven’t watched enough Friday Night Lights. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I don’t find the inclusion of Coach to be as well handled as Adam Pally’s integration into The Mindy Project. Having both Coach and Winston just makes me feel like the writers don’t know what to do with either of them.

The Mindy Project – It’s quietly one of the funnier shows on television, but it seems that it’s going on hiatus in January. It’s a bummer because of how funny everyone on it is, but the show is kind of all over the place right now and some time off could help. Just don’t get rid of Adam Pally!

How I Met Your Mother – The oddness of separating the cast and squeezing the whole season into a single weekend has produced some ridiculously funny moments, but also some clunky, uninspired episodes. I think it’s ultimately successful, but it’s still been a weird decision.

Parks and Recreation – I like that Leslie got recalled and success isn’t guaranteed for everyone, but it’s been an oddly paced season because NBC keeps releasing episodes in bursts (and then Parks is also headed for hiatus, I think).

Homeland – This season…It’s been a clusterfuck. Just poorly paced and unnecessarily confusing. The twists are sometimes satisfying, but I find it less and less believable that Carrie could possibly work for the CIA. I also find the show’s dedication to the Carrie/Brody romance to be…ill-advised.

Music

How about some silliness? Here’s Dan Deacon’s 50% reduction of Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop”

Books

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao – Katie gifted me a Kindle and I immediately picked this up for my first read. I first heard of Junot Diaz when he guest DJ-ed on Alt.Latino and I found him so intriguing that I wanted to read Oscar Wao. Turns out it was a fantastic idea. I may not be Dominican, but the book so beautifully captures life in the diaspora. It felt a lot like parts of my life felt and it was perfectly written. I would recommend it to anyone.

Assassination Vacation – This one was read on the bus rides to and from New York Thanksgiving weekend. I wish that the sections on not-Lincoln were better developed, but the book was a fascinating look at aspects of American politics, presidents, and assassinations that I’d never come across before. Very interesting.

ell Played 1.0: Video Games, Value and Meaning – Read the intro and a few pages of the chapter on Ico, but this appears to be a collection of scholarly essays about video games. It was free and it looks like it’ll be interesting enough to read.

Video Games

Pac-Man CE DX + – I blew through the achievements while waiting for Katie. Still the best Pac-Man game ever made.

Spelunky – I got in a daily challenge like, weeks ago. I. Am. Rusty.

Organ Trail – This is pretty much exactly Oregon Trail, but a zombie mod. Decent, but also…slow

Samurai Showdown – I play this a few minutes here and there to kill time while on my phone. It’s a decent RTS, but the lack of control and bad AI makes it unnecessarily difficult sometimes.

Rayman Legends – Brilliant 2D platforming, as you might expect, with fantastic music to boot. I was pleasantly surprised how much fun Katie, Min, and I had playing this for a bit.

XCOM: Enemy Within – Haven’t really passed the opening few months, but I’m loving the MEC troopers. Loads of fun to use. The game is also paced very differently (much harder!). I should turn off some of the Second Wave options I’ve turned on…

Plants vs. Zombies 2 – Do not like playing this on my phone at all. Would rather play on my desktop.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds – Unbelievably perfect music combines with impressive graphics and framerate. I need to put more than an hour in before I can render a judgement, but it will be favorable.

Super Mario 3D World – Perfection. This game is the Mario game you’ve been craving. Tons of fun with multiple people. I can’t wait to try it with Katie. We’ve just got to find the time…

New Super Luigi Bros. – Played this on the gamepad while people were sleeping (Wii U is so cool!). These levels are devious, but actually really good.

Pokemon Y – I saved the world from Yvestal, but now I’ve still got to beat the 8th gym and the Elite Four. Interest is on the rise, but I also realize that I’m not as close to done as I think I am.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies – I’m on day 2 of case 3, but there have been enough fun twists and turns that I’ve been really captivated by the case. Can’t wait to see how it ends. I bet Professor Means was the murderer…

What I’ve Been Doing 11 Nov 2013 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Nov 11th, 2013 by Dan

Master of Sex

Clever ad copy for one of the best shows this season. (Photo by Katya Yakubov)

It’s been another awesome week! I got to meet Adam Jones at a tailgate and watch the Ravens win along with…all the stuff below!

Movies

None this week!

TV

The Amazing Race – Katie and I shotgunned the entire tenth season because it had a leg that passed through Madagascar. I think she’s really starting to get into the show, which is great because it’s loads of fun to watch. I’m also working on the fifth season on my own and watching the current season. I’m really liking Nicole and Travis to win the race…

Masters of Sex – The show is pretty slow-moving, but I’m really enjoying the way that it’s setting up its relationships and plotlines so far. Lots of great character work.

How I Met Your Mother – Ask and ye shall receive, I guess. The mother made an appearance, but now I’m gonna complain that she’s not interacting with the present day cast. Soon enough, I’d think!

New Girl – Coach is back! I forgot how he was supposed to be characterized, but it was a little disappointing. Just felt trite and overdone with the whole “guy acting like girlfriends are controlling their friends” thing. His role in Happy Endings was way more interesting. Also who remembered that Winston used to play basketball in Europe?!

The Mindy Project – It’s a bummer that this show probably isn’t gonna survive, because it’s just got so many hilarious lines. They’re usually throaways, but they make me and Katie laugh so hard anyway…

Homeland – Remember how Homeland never lets you get comfortable because it’s always “GO GO GO!”? It’s that again for sure. Did you think we’d have another quiet interrogation episode like last year? Nope. Carrie’s already laying out the long con. It was pretty cool, but they seem to be randomly mismanaging stuff, so people ended up…dead.

Music

“Wouldn’t It Be Nice” by The Beach Boys today because I heard it this morning and I love it.

Books

So close…

Video Games

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies – Second case is progressing and I’m getting really close to finishing off the proper verdict. Still fun, if not a little quirky and weird. This case has been pretty convoluted and I’m still not sure where all the details are going to end up.

Pokemon Y – One gym leader left!

Tiny Death Star – F2P gaming at its worst, but it’s fine to set timers and have going on in the background for all the silly Star Wars jokes.

Plants vs. Zombies 2 – I’d rather play this on my PC. It’s not the worst, but it’s still not anywhere near as good…

What I’ve Been Doing 4 Nov 2013 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Nov 4th, 2013 by Dan

Great For Tweezing

Who doesn’t love novelty tweezers?

I’ve gotten really bad at doing these in a timely fashion. Gotta get back up on that horse…

Movies

Under African Skies – Katie’s favorite album is Graceland and we happened upon a track on the 25th anniversary album where Paul Simon explained how the song was constructed. It really got us in the mood to look for some kind of documentary about the album and, lo and behold, this movie exists and it was on Hulu+. The documentary is fascinating, both politically and musically, and definitely well worth seeing.

TV

New Girl – The whole Keaton concept was actually a really funny premise. It’s also a pretty clever way to get Schmidt out of the loft for a few episodes so Damon Wayans, Jr. can return as Coach for a bit. I’m so excited for that storyline, mostly because I miss the superior hangout show, Happy Endings. It’s gonna go one of two ways: Winston will be hilarious and we’ll all love him more for being on this show OR it’s gonna further highlight how little they had for Winston to do all this time and how loose a grasp they have on his character.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine – Pretty good Halloween episode. After a few “Lone Wolf” Peralta episodes, the show has really been focusing on its (excellent) ensemble. I’ve been really enjoying the way that everyone gels and how the adversarial relationhip they set up in the pilot between Holt and Peralta has mostly turned into a jovial, accepting one.

The Mindy Project – The nude photo exhibit episode was just…hilarious. Having all those photos in the background of the final scenes was hilarious. The MMA episode…less fun. I’m still enjoying Adam Pally on the show, but, man does this show feel stuffed!

How I Met Your Mother – Where’s the mother?! I was kind of hoping she’d appear in more episodes than she has.

Homeland – Did Homeland cheat a little with its plotting this season for the twist? No. I don’t think so. It’s actually reasonablby tight in retrospect. The real question is whether or not that crazy twist is worth leaving us all kind of spinning in the wind for a few episodes or not. Why not let us know that this is the plan from the getgo and let the tension arise from worrying about the plan messing up or the strain that Carrie is actually suffering under?

The Amazing Race – Real bummer to see the beards go. They were an interesting team. I also wish the earlier teams used the U-Turns. Also: don’t switch Detours!

Parenthood – The mayor plotline still feels a little bit like a reach, but I don’t think we’re supposed to think that closely about Parenthood episodes, right?

Archer – Space episodes. Both super funny.

Music

I’m in a Paul Simon mood. Here’s “I Know What I Know”

Books

Hmm…I really gotta get back on this train.

Video Games

Pokemon Y – The Nuzlocke is going well. I’m in the Frost Caverns, but I lost a bunch of dudes, including Katie and Chen.

Civilization V – I might finally get to capture a pirate in the Mesa Bros. game and in the game with David I’m battling for territory with Persia and Rome. I might try and pit Persia against Rome to take a bite out of Roman power…

Phoenix Wright Dual Destinies – I’ve played through the first case and I’m partway through the second. The new mood matrix is a little more interesting to me than the way that they approached Apollo’s power of spotting tics in AA4. Athena’s a pretty cool character and it’s good to have Phoenix back. So far it’s been a lot of fun, but I haven’t met the new prosecutor yet nor have I done extensive investigations. It feels like they hold your hand a little more in the investigation phase, but maybe that’s not a bad thing…

Candy Box 2 – Everything interesting about Candy Box has been turned up to 11 in this game. I’ve been having a blast with how weird and fun it is. Great to just spend a few minutes to maximize my lollipop production.

Hometown Story – This game just feels cheaply and poorly done. It lacks some polish, but I’ve also only really given it a half hour. Maybe it’ll get better with more time, but in a single day’s worth of gameplay Recettear seemed a lot more cohesive and with it.

Plants vs. Zombies 2 – Like the first one, only more advanced and with microtransactions. Would I prefer to play this on my pc? Absolutely. Is it acceptable on the phone? Sure.

What I’ve Been Doing 22 Oct 2013 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Oct 22nd, 2013 by Dan

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

I really dig the entire ensemble in this show. Lots of talent. (Photo courtesy michelarouca)

A nice, relaxing weekend led to plenty of tv getting consumed and a great new show find.

Movies

Argo – Katie, Min, and I were looking for something action-y, but not too brainy and this is what we (brilliantly) settled on. The flick still holds up after a year, but I found the embassy storming less traumatic the second time (and also separated from Benghazi and watching the movie with people instead of solo)

TV

How I Met Your Mother – Fully catching up on How I Met Your Mother leaves me in the uncomfortable position of not having a go-to hang out show to watch. Whoops! I finally watched the episode with the mother and she’s really funny/neat-seeming. I hope to see more of her this season, because she hasn’t appeared all that much in the present.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine – There was non-insignificant buzz about this being the best show of the new fall slate and they weren’t wrong. It’s got Parks and Recreation fingerprints on it, for sure, but it’s very funny in its own unique way. I like the entire ensemble so far and I’m pretty invested in where this show is going to go as the year progresses.

Parks and Recreation – Is it weird that I’ve found Leslie to be kind of unlikeable for the first part of this season? I know they like to have episodes where she’s wrong sometimes so she’s not a complete Mary Sue character, but her overreaction to Ann leaving was fairly off-putting.

Parenthood – I’m not looking forward to the Pete adultery plot that’s about to start next episode, but this show has been remarkably pleasant so far, even if it is a little too overeager/unrealistic with how neatly things wrap up (if Christina becomes mayor…)

The League – I know this show is way over the top (this episode, particularly) and off-putting, but it’s funny in a throwaway kind of way. I can just half-watch and do other things while the worse than Seinfeld folks do their thing.

Homeland – My level of “OK” with the most recent plot twist will have to do with whether or not they try and convince us that this was all part of the plan the whole time. Carrie has an awful poker face in general, so being told that this was always true doesn’t track with the very-real fear she showed in the asylum. Twists are fun, but only when you play fair with them.

The Amazing Race – Supposedly the second express pass didn’t help in The Amazing Race Canada either, so I’m hoping for a solid 3-3 on the second express pass screwing over Marie. She’s almost cartoonish in how she tries to hold that over people’s heads. Sadly, safe money is on editing misdirection.

New Girl – Didn’t pay enough attention to the jokes in this episode, but Winston sure is getting to be a cartoon, isn’t he?

The Bridge – The killer is revealed(?) Gross violence in this one.

Music

You all know that I love Wild Flag, right? Here’s another Mary Timony joint, Ex Hex. This track, “Hot and Cold” is pretty good.

Books

Would you believe me if I said, “Maybe next week?”

Video Games

Pokemon Y – Just beat the Electric Gym. I wish Lumiose City wasn’t in 3D. It’s too obnoxious to navigate with the way the game handles the camera.

Civilization V – Well…Things move slowly, but I’m still ahead of David in our dual game, but behind him in the Mesa game. I should be making a push soon, especially if I stop getting beat to wonders.

What I’ve Been Doing 30 Sept – 14 Oct 2013 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Oct 14th, 2013 by Dan

IMAG0038

Just adding to my “pictures in front of ballparks with Katie” collection.

Man have I been busy! So much has conspired to keep me from getting this out until now between going to Boston and the government shutdown and all kinds of craziness, but no excuses now! We should be back to our regularly scheduled programming from here on out.

Movies

Captain Phillips – Tom Hanks deserves serious accolade for the way he played this role. It was just perfectly done and the movie itself was tense and nervewracking as things started to fall apart and the outcome (that we honestly already knew) started to become clearer. Worth seeing. It won’t be Best Picture, but maybe Hanks will get something.

Django Unchained – Watched this with Katie to add to our ridiculously tense/heavy movie tally. Still holds up almost a year later. That scene at the dinner table where everyone’s making their moves is so tense and easily the best in the movie.

TV

House of Cards – I can’t even remember when we actually finished this, it was so long ago. The first season kind of stops right in the middle of some interesting storylines, but, on the other hand, this means that the second season will be able to give Peter’s murder room to breathe as the central conflict. I’ve never seen the British House of Cards, but I wonder if the US version is going to let Underwood win or have him be hoisted by his own petard. It was fascinating when he was being assaulted on all sides, but I’m also not sure if not letting him have some victory will feel satisfying for me as a viewer.

New Girl – They went and pulled the trigger on keeping the Nick and Jess thing and it’s turned out to be not that bad at all. So far it’s seemed that the show isn’t in danger of getting boring or losing quality because of it, which is great, but I still think that, despite the increased attention on his character, there’s very little for Winston to do that’s not pathetic or weird or just…odd.

The Mindy Project – Chris Messina is secretly the best thing about this show. He’s got incredible delivery and timing as Danny and his chemistry with Mindy is pretty great. It’s too bad I hear this show is dangerously on the bubble for next year.

Parks and Recreation – I’m several episodes behind, but I didn’t really feel the England episode. It was funny and all, but it felt like setting up the season more than anything else. That’s fine (and it’s still funny), but it just lacked that oomph. Not to mention I think Leslie’s behavior was a little out of character.

Masters of Sex – At first glance this show looks like Shotime T&A exploitation instead of a serious tv show, but man am I impressed with the way that they’ve handled the show. I don’t totally love the way that Lizzy Caplan chose to change her speaking style in the first episode, but the way that she and Michael Sheen relate on screen has this simmering heat to it. It’s just a fascinating show to watch. I read on Jacob Clifton’s TWoP recap that the show has a female showrunner and I think that’s pretty clear by the way the show deals with relationships and sex (ie: maturely and with real depth). Check this one out. It’s good.

Parenthood – After watching the first episode of this season I told Katie that it reminded me of Friday Night Lights. Turns out that it’s got the same showrunner. Parenthood has that same improvised dialog style that allows for much more natural and genuine interaction between the actors. I don’t like the show as much as I liked FNL, but I think it could easily grow on me by a lot. This style of show (ie: filled with verisimilitude) is my bread and butter, although I think the plot about the lady running for office is dumb.

Pushing Daisies – I was looking for something cute like this to watch with Katie and I think it’s just the thing (in small doses) for filling gaps in what we’re watching on a given week.

The League – I only had a chance to catch an episode and a half of this while Katie was busy doing other things, but it’s still just as solid as it’s ever been. At this point this show is what it will be until it’s done. If you like that kind of thing it’ll always work for you.

Homeland – All caught up on this one, actually. I enjoyed the Brody/Carrie-centric third episode, but I’m predisposed to like anything that takes place in Latin America with tons of Spanish in it. Drug addiction stories bore me, but let’s see where they take this Brody stuff. How cool would it be if this was how he quietly exited, stage left? I think this show would have been better if Brody died in S1. The lack of a clear-cut antagonist has made the start of this season feel kind of aimless, mostly because I’m not as taken with either Carrie or Brody. We’ll see where they go, I guess.

How I Met Your Mother – Great for aimless, distracted watching.

The Amazing Race – I’m not sure how these racers compare to all the past seasons, but I do know that this race has felt way harder than the past two seasons already. Flight drama, language stuff, bus difficulty, and tasks that have, in general, seemed more interesting. I bet I sound like an apologist to the diehards who have seen the classic seasons, but I’m really digging it so far. Too bad the NFL guys got eliminated. They were the best and they didn’t deserve to go so soon due to just terrible, snakebit flight luck.

Music

I heard this track on All Songs and I dug it. “Make It Up” by The Blow

Books

Nope. Maybe next week?

Video Games

Civilization V – I’ve been lagging behind on turns, but I’m in the score lead in both games, I think. Dave fell pretty far behind in the 3 Mesa game.

SMT IV – Didn’t manage to finish this before Pokemon came out so we’ll see if I actually finish it any time soon. I think I’m right on the cusp of making my big moral choice, but it’ll be a while.

Candy Box – Silly and weird and oddly addictive, but the impending release of Candy Box 2 on the 24th made me want to hold off on getting too into it.

Phoenix Wright: Dual Destinies Demo – It’s nice to have this game series back. I’ve missed it so much while it was gone. The new 3D engine and the new sound samples aren’t the same and that’s a little distracting for now, but I was also encouraged by how weird and interesting the witnesses still seemed to be even though they were 3D models instead of pixel art. We’ll see if they’re able to capture the right aesthetic anyway.

Cookie Clicker – How do I even start talking about Cookie Clicker? Katie randomly came home addicted to this game and I’ve been roped into clicking cookies and buying upgrades and it’s so fun and I can’t stop clicking…:click::click::click::click::click::click::click::click::click:

Pokemon Y – The game I’ve been waiting all year for is finally out. New region, new 3D engine, new system. Holy crap is this everything you’d want a new Pokemon game to be and then some. So much fun. I’m sure I’ll have a lot more to say as the week progresses, but I’m also doing a Nuzlocke again (and I lost on the first gym).

The Walking Dead – Started playing the first episode with Katie and I had a really good time watching her make decisions. A lot of them were pretty similar to the ones I would make when it came to being compassionate or caring toward other people (and children), but I was also way more secretive about being a convict and I didn’t like to keep silent whenever I had the opportunity to talk. Fascinating stuff and lots of fun. I hope she continues to want to play with me.

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