SIDEBAR
»
S
I
D
E
B
A
R
«
What I’ve Been Doing 25 Feb 2013 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Feb 25th, 2013 by Dan

Philadelphia Phillies at Miami Marlins 29 Sept 2012

Baseball’s finally back. Sure, it’s in spring training, but it’s BACK!

Whoops! Sorry about the week off there! Back to the grind.

It’s also baseball season (still spring training) again! YAY!

Movies

Skyfall – I didn’t have a seamless, uninterrupted viewing thanks to Chinese food and plumbers and plumbing catastrophes, but this was definitely a beautiful movie. I’d like to watch it again to let it all sink in.

TV

How I Met Your Mother – Can’t even remember which random episode I saw, but I dug it.

Archer – Saw the one with Barry and Katjaa. It was pretty darn funny. Solid season so far.

Veep – Rewatched the first season with Katie. I can’t wait for the April return of the show.

Community – The cracks of Harmon-less Community are starting to show. I’m definitely not used to watching the show without that creative rudder, so I suppose I’ve got to start thinking of it as a new show with the same cast and premise. Like a writer change on a comic book.

Parks and Recreation – The wedding episode was so great! Best show on television right now?

The Daily Show – A few random episodes. Good stuff, but I’m way…WAY behind on current episodes.

Justified – A stretch of weaker episodes isn’t gonna turn me off of my favorite southern crime drama. No way. That Jackie Nevada girl was good looking too. Hope she keeps coming back.

New Girl – I’m impressed that the show handled Nick/Jess so well. Hopefully that’s no longer an issue for the show for the next few episodes, but I was glad to see it handled so deftly even if it means losing Doctor Sam.

The Oscars – Seth MacFarlane was kind of a sexist jerk, but you can’t expect too much, I suppose. The show was otherwise not too bad.

Music

Man, I heard this song for the first time in ages on Saturday:

Bask in City High.

Books

Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan – Jake Adelstein’s tales about organized crime in Japan are fascinating and super fun to read. I almost can’t put this book down every time I start to read it.

Video Games

Fire Emblem: Awakening – I’ve stalled on playing this due to social obligations, but I’m about set to hit it hard again.

FTL: Faster Than Light – Finally unlocked the stealth ship! Now I’ve got to get type B and go for the crystal ship.

Spelunky – New skins means watching more new avatars get killed by the cave’s traps and perils. Lots of fun! Hope you’re watching my LPs.

What I’ve Been Doing 11 Feb 2013 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Feb 12th, 2013 by Dan

Dan's Birthday Party At Bandito's

Birthday happy hour last week (Photo by Eric)

Another year, another birthday. I continue to get older and, oddly enough, wiser.

Movies

In the Loop – I’m a big fan of Iannucci’s work and this movie doesn’t disappoint. Well, except for the fact that its ending is depressing and mostly based on real life. That part’s a huge bummer.

TV

The Thick of It – Oh man, the part where Hugh used Glen’s developmentally challenged son in a story to get out of trouble…wow…

Mythbusters – It sure takes a long, roundabout way to get to a point, but the baseball myths were all super cool to see proved/disproved. Can’t believe they left the humidity one only at plausible. I thought that was fairly definitive.

30 Rock – Not a bad finale, actually. I loved the way they wrapped everything up with Jack and Liz. Good show. I should watch the intermediate seasons that I missed.

Parks and Recreation – The in-show calzone joke thing is perhaps the most amazing thing to ever be put into a sitcom.

Justified – No one on tv is cooler than Raylan Givens. I really liked the one where he had to deal with Lindsay’s husband. This show kind of makes me want to live in Kentucky.

Community – I don’t think the show is as strong without Harmon…at least not so long as they’re gonna keep trying to ape his style. Community Babies was a particularly strained attempt to hit his level of meta.

The Mindy Project – Mindy is still pretty much the same person as my roommate. I find this show a lot funnier than the critical consensus.

New Girl – Speaking of funny shows and shows I haven’t praised nearly enough, New Girl has finally made me realize how incredible it is. It’s just been firing on every cylinder this year. Totally loved the awkward backwards moonwalk. I need to work that into my repetoire.

Archer – Still don’t really care for Ron Cadillac at all. Funny episode nonetheless.

Grammys – I’m sorry, but Frank Ocean >> Mumford & Sons.

Music

I’m not kidding…Listen to Frank Ocean

Books

Are We Winning?: Fathers and Sons in the New Golden Age of Baseball – I really love the Steve Bartman chapter. My favorite part of the book each year that I read it.

Video Games

Spelunky – I actually had me some good runs go horribly bad. Allowing the scepter of Anubis to kill you was a real jerk move, Derek Yu.

Fire Emblem: Awakening – I wasn’t expecting to get this until everyone was talking about how great it was. Know what? It’s fantastic. Addictive and fun and tough to stomach losing units, but still worth playing. Didn’t know you’d be able to customize your main character, but I love that about this game too.

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

2013-02-02_00093

Maybe it’s ripping off They Live a bit, but I really dig the way that the city seems to hate Dante.

Not a lot of things going on last week because it was busy! There was a Super Bowl that the Ravens were winning! So much fun being out in Baltimore last night.

Movies

Next week, I promise!

TV

The Thick of It – This show is so mean (like Veep!) and I love Tucker’s “bollocking face”.

Happy Endings – I think the sight gag of Marlon Wayans, Jr. giving a reluctant lapdance to Jane because he was covered in stripper glitter was the biggest laugh of 2013 so far.

New Girl – I wish they’d kept it “won’t they,” but I strangely trust New Girl in S2 to handle this Jess/Nick thing fairly well. They’ve been firing on all cylinders and this season has been a real Nick highlight.

Archer – Best Archer episode of this young season so far. Full of callbacks (almost too full) and brilliant humor. Hilarious episode.

Girls – There was so much brilliaant drama in this episode I don’t know where to start. Ray and Shoshana were the clear highlights, but Jessa and Thomas John’s fight was brilliantly acted out. This show is really clicking right now and I hope it stays strong.

Music

Beyoncé runs the world right now.

Books

A Confederacy of Dunces – Finally finished the book. The convergence of all the plots was so funny and tight and perfect. It’s definitely a book that rewards reading it all the way through. Everyone has a neat/proper ending and Ignatius’ fate felt strangely right.

Are We Winning?: Fathers and Sons in the New Golden Age of Baseball – An annual prepping for baseball season read. I love Will Leitch’s insights and his love for his Cardinals. I don’t know of a baseball book that I enjoy reading more.

Video Games

Spelunky – Thanks to a new Elgato capture card courtesy my mom for my birthday, I’m now able to capture console footage and use it to show the world how bad I am at Spelunky. So much fun, you guys!

XCOM: Enemy Unknown – Man, those Second Wave switches are almost way too hard to deal with. Gonna lose this game and start a new one.

DmC Devil May Cry – Who knew that this game would be so fun/awesome? I’m digging the combat system and all of Ninja Theory’s great character work. This game is stupid in all the right ways too. Loved that intro with the bat and junk food in front of Dante’s junk.

Music of 2012 [F]
Jan 9th, 2013 by Dan

Colorful Dream

They’re not a real band, but I think you get the idea.

The biggest change in 2012 for me was the rise of Bandcamp and Soundcloud. Sure, I still bought plenty of music from Amazon or Google, but an increasing amount of the stuff I picked up came from the individual himself. I mean, why would I expect the Fez soundtrack to occupy a spot in Amazon’s mp3 store? Thanks to Bandcamp, I can just pick it up almost directly from the artist.

2012 also marked the year that genre walls were officially smashed for me. I think the only stuff I can’t really tolerate is noise metal. Just about everything else can penetrate my cold, black heart and move me to sing and dance.

I certainly never would have guessed that I’d be listening to so much hip hop and R&B back when I started this blog in 2008. It was all punk, rock, and ska, but now I cast a much wider net.

Top Artists of 2012

1. The Beatles (409)

This has been a mainstay of every list since the catalog re-release back in 2009. There’s not really much more to say about how incredible this band is so I’ll instead comment on the fact that I listened to them ~1,100 fewer times this year than last. I really spread out my music time this year…

2. The Weeknd (333)

I can’t remember what month it was when I discovered the trio of mixtapes just waiting for me online, but I will say that The Weeknd opened my eyes to R&B in a way I would have thought impossible. Without him I guarantee you that Frank Ocean would not be on this list. Everything about his music is simultaneously sleazy and sexy and so wrong it almost feels right. “High For This”, “Wicked Games”, and “House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls” are all stunners.

3. Sambomaster (サンボマスター) (326)

Another mainstay ever since my Japan trip. My understanding of the lyrics approaches zero, but I feel like I understand everything Takeshi Yamaguchi is trying to say with that heartfelt, almost mournful, sandpapery voice. As cheesy as it sounds, it speaks to my soul, man.

4. Frank Ocean (270)

Think about this: I didn’t get channel ORANGE until November. Everybody’s talking about this record, I know, but allow me to say that Ocean penned and crooned the best album of the year. Nothing tops this in 2012, guys. Nothing.

5. Jonathan Coulton (269)

Some people would have you believe that Coulton is a novelty singer best enjoyed in small doses. Some people are wrong. Coulton’s earlier work may lean on a geeky, nerdy motif, but, like I said last year, Artificial Heart really takes him to a new level.

6. Disasterpiece (240)

I listened to a lot of game sountracks this year thanks to the ubiquity and ease of Bandcamp. Disasterpiece’s moody, quasi-ambient work on Fez proved spooky, lonely, and mournful while also igniting that spark for adventure. It’s all synth-y, but the notes never feel quite right, which is pretty much what Fez is all about.

7. Yoko Kanno (202)

I bet you’re thinking that this is all Cowboy Bebop music. You’d be wrong. Kanno’s work on the jazz tunes in Kids on the Slope opened my eyes to a genre I’d ignored for most of my life. That medley in the culture festival? Pure. Magic.

8. George & Jonathan (184)

One of their tunes was the theme to Polygon’s podcast, The Besties, and the album, Beautiful Lifestyle, struck just the right balance of playful and fun without getting obnoxious.

9. Regina Spektor (152)

I fell for What We Saw from the Cheap Seats as hard as a person could for an album. “All the Rowboats”, “Firewood”, and “How” are all so stunningly beautiful that I want to be listening to them right now…In fact, I think I’ll go put them on.

10. Rodrigo y Gabriela (151)

The first entry that confuses me about being on this list. I still dig their stuff, but I don’t really remember listening to it that much this year.

11. The Civil Wars (136)

I’m really worried about the state of this band now that they’ve canceled their tours. What will I do without Joy Williams’ beautiful voice? I hope they figure it out.

12. Kanye West (129)

The current king of hip hop, as far as I’m concerned. Yeezy goes big. Even though I haven’t loved his collab stuff as much as My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, I can’t help but come back to this guy time and time again.

13. Fall Out Boy (126)

So few bands know how to craft a tune as instantly catchy as these guys. Too bad they broke up.

14. Eirik Suhrke (119)

You may be wondering who this guy is. He did the music for Spelunky, a genius take on the Mega Drive soundchip that gives me that extra push to hit retry on the off chance that I get that sweet sax tune in the Ice Caves.

15. Tsunku (つんく♂) (114)

If I had properly tagged my Rhythm Heaven Fever music earlier in the year this number would be much higher. Academically I understand why other people might not love all the music in Rhythm Heaven, but in my heart I can’t understand why any awesome person would hate it.

16. Childish Gambino (113)

Part of that hip hop kick this year. Donald Glover is pretty awesome.

17. Nintendo (98)

You know what? I think that this 98 is supposed to be added to the Tsunku tally above. Hear that, Tsunku? You should be 7th.

17. Jim Guthrie (98)

The composer to the Superbrothers soundtrack knows how to make a sweet groove. Seriously, go check it out.

19. OK Go (97)

“Needing/Getting” will always be a favorite of mine because I’m a hopeless romantic (emphasis on hopeless).

20. Jasper Byrne (95)

The Lone Survivor soundtrack is responsible for this play count. It was equal parts creepy and beautiful and I couldn’t stay away last winter/spring.

21. Alex Cuba (91)

Man, that afro is cool, isn’t it? There’s a clarity and richness to his voice that soothes me and makes me feel funky.

22. Hannibal Buress (88)

Is your name really Hannibal? These plays are thanks to two of my favorite stand-up albums that I got this year. That Buress dude is pretty funny, y’all.

22. Ana Tijoux (88)

Saw her live this year. That was awesome. Her ability to spit rhymes in Spanish is mind boggling to me.

24. Juan Luis Guerra (85)

I wonder what percentage of these come from “Niagara en bicicleta”? (Answer: ~26%)

25. Kendrick Lamar (84)

I picked up good kid, m.A.A.d city at the same time (or close to it) as channel ORANGE and figured that it would definitely win, play-wise. Didn’t quite go like that, but trust that Kendrick Lamar’s rhymes are equally awesome. Definitely check out that disc.

Top 10 Tracks of 2012

1. The Weeknd – “House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls” (23)

It all sounds so drug-addled and sexy, but in a dirty way. This was the first track I heard by The Weeknd and the rest is history.

2. Juan Luis Guerra – “El Niagara en bicicleta” (22)

Quite possibly my favorite song ever? I honestly have no idea how it didn’t make the list last year.

3. George & Jonathan – “Little Marcus” (21)

The aforementioned former theme to The Besties. It doesn’t overstay its welcome and it’s super pleasant. A great little tune.

4. Carla Morrison – “Compartir” (20)

I would have expected “Una salida” to have this spot, but this is also a fantastic love song by a beautiful vocalist. Carla Morrison has this sweet, delicate voice that just breaks your heart while you listen to her. I absolutely love her and this song.

4. Neon Indian – “Polish Girl” (20)

I think I own two Neon Indian songs, but this chillwave track puts me in a spaced out place where I can’t not love it. Put a gun to my head and I wouldn’t be able to describe what makes this song so special, but I think it really does speak for itself.

6. Regina Spektor – “Small Town Moon” (19)

It probably ended up with the most plays by virtue of being the first track on her new album, but “Small Town Moon” is no slouch. It perfectly sets the mood for a thoughtful, beautiful album.

6. George & Jonathan – “Street Monsters” (19)

There’s really no good explanation for how this track got up here. It’s funky and it’s quick and I guess it got lucky compared to the rest of the album.

6. Frank Ocean – “Bad Religion”, “Pilot Jones”, & “Pyramids” (19)

And the list closes out with my three favorite tracks from channel ORANGE. All three of these are perfect in their own way. Be it the soulful poetry of “Bad Religion”, the simple hook of “Pilot Jones”, or that sexy electrofunk of the first half of the epic “Pyramids”, they all land so unbelievably perfectly on my ears that I’m shocked they’re not higher up on the list.

Video Games of 2012 [GO]
Jan 4th, 2013 by Dan

Miami Marlins at Pittsburgh Pirates - PNC Park 21 Jul 2012

Even the Pittsburgh Pirates played video games this year.

Knock on wood, you guys, but I managed to get through 2012 without having all my video games stolen from my house while I was sleeping [EDITOR’S NOTE: It’s 2013 now, you dummy. You don’t need to knock on wood]. Should that even be an achievement?

2012 seems to be a shift in the status quo. Perhaps it’s because the new console generation hasn’t yet kicked off, but I feel like fewer and fewer AAA, big budget titles have been grabbing my attention lately. Of the 56 games on this list I feel like very few (about 12) were big, huge landmark games. Maybe that’s not all that different, but it feels different…

Also, like last year I do count games on this list that did not launch in 2012, but that I played, started, or beat in 2012.

JANUARY

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective – The weirdest thing about my time with this game was that I chose to play it in Spanish. It was fine practice and, off the top of my head, it taught me two Spanish words I had no use for before playing it (sotano and cachorro, meaning basement and puppy/cub/kitten, respectively), but it also featured very funny writing by Phoenix Wright’s creator and a bizarrely complicated story for such a slight-looking game. In fact, 2012 was kind of a year of interactive fiction, as you’ll see, so it’s appropriate to see GT get top billing. It’s also worth mentioning that the animation in this game is spectacular.

Rayman: Origins – Also known as the game where Min and I attained Super Saiyan level for the first time. No lie, guys, the treasure chest levels and the final Level of the Dead or whatever it was called was a zen-like achievement for the pair of us. If New Super Mario Bros. isn’t your bag, but you think you might still love platformers then you absolutely need to try this game out.

Chrono Trigger DS – Yeah, I played this in the 90s. Yep, it was my first RPG. The DS port added some marginal sections, including an epilogue that sets up for Chrono Cross in the most depressing way possible, but it also came with a new translation that I thought was interesting and brought some freshness to an otherwise “solved” game for me.

Earthbound – I wish I’d spent more time trying to replay Earthbound, but I just didn’t. Heck, I don’t think I got too far past meeting Buzz Buzz…Still love this game.

Cave Story + – How I long for dynamic difficulty level changing! Cave Story + is a fantastic Metroidvania-style pixel shooter, but my hubris determined I would play on the hardest difficulty, which means I’m stuck on Monster X until I can get my skills down pat.

FEBRUARY

Final Fantasy XIII-2 – Remember how everyone’s favorite character in FF XIII was Lightning’s sister and some guy no one ever saw in FF XIII? Wait…those weren’t your favorite characters? You don’t want to play another 40 hours as those chuckleheads and watch Snow, Hope, and Sazh from afar while playing a nearly incomprehensible story? Too bad!

Saints Row: The Third – I feel bad for you if you’ve never played Saints Row: The Third. I felt bad for myself for not having played it sooner than I did. For maximum awesomeness be sure to give your boss the Latina voice. It’s priceless. Seriously though, this game is the best open world game I have ever played. Period. It’s absurd, ridiculous, and nonsensical, but it’s winking every step of the way and I’m right there with it.

Rhythm Heaven Fever – When I first started writing this list I forgot that this little gem came out in 2012. Can you believe it?! Min, I know you don’t understand the appeal here, but this is honestly among my favorite game of this year. Did I spend $80 importing the soundtrack from Japan? You betcha. Goddammit this game is so good. It’s a must play for anyone with a Wii (or a Wii U). Seriously, go buy it. It’s incredible.

Devil Survivor 2 – Man, the Megrez fight is so stupid and I’m not properly equipped, demon-wise, to tackle it, which is why I never beat this game. It’s better than DS1, mechanically, but I just need to sit down and grind my way out of this and I really don’t want to have to do that…Bonus points for also pretty much being Evangelion

MARCH

Mass Effect 3 – Hoo boy…What a shitshow this game’s release was…I wish I’d beaten it faster than I had because by the time I reached the ending, well, the internet had practically exploded with criticism. I spent more time wading in comments sections and forums defending the artistic integrity of a game that I honestly didn’t find that impressive compared to the rest of the year’s releases, but it just rubbed me the wrong way to see the fanboys demand changes from Bioware. I mean, whine all you want, but so long as Bioware doesn’t cave– What’s that? You say they did cave? They did change the ending as a response to fan whining? My respect for Bioware and this game flew out the window the second that happened. As far as I’m concerned, I played the real Mass Effect 3, but I never got the chance to enjoy it. Now that the doctors are gone from Bioware and the company is soliciting advice on what direction to take Dragon Age III, I find myself thinking, “Man, what happened to Bioware?” It’s a real shame because Mass Effect 3 was actually quite good.

APRIL

Shadow Complex – Way late to the party on this one, but I was feeling that Metroidvania itch and, well, this game kind of scratches it. I hate the third dimension they added to the gun because it makes aiming a pain. Other than that it’s fine. Serviceable, really, but it also gets credit for being the first “autolog” type game that I can think of.

Jamestown – I don’t play a lot of vertical/horizontal shooters. Jamestown just happened to be out in a lull and I owned it from a Humble Bundle. It’s enjoyable enough and I dig playing it with multiple people, but it’s not going to set the world on fire. Playing the story in “funny” mode is fun too because the alternative is almost obnoxiously self-serious.

Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP – Cool music and a cool aesthetic, but it controls weird on the PC. I wish I had an iPad for stuff like this and that I put more time into this game.

The Walking Dead – I thought about separating this out into episodes across the series, but it seems cleaner to talk about this game in one fell swoop even though I started it in April and finished it in November. I know I said that Rhythm Heaven Fever was the best game of this year, but The Walking Dead is actually the best thing to have come out this year. I’ll grant you that it’s more interactive fiction than game, but even that’s not that important, really. I mean, would putting more puzzles in this adventure game make it any better? Of course not! The Walking Dead is the success it is because it’s a character-driven story of the likes we haven’t seen before. Lee Everett may not be making the galaxy-defining choices that Commander Shepard makes on a daily basis, but the stakes always seem higher as he does his best to shepherd young Clementine through a world that only gets worse and worse for everyone. That last scene in the jewelry store as Lee coaches Clem to safety…It touched me (and I’m sure most anyone who played it) in a way that nothing else this year could. I’m not being hyperbolic when I say that everyone should play this game. It’s brilliant.

Fez – Speaking of brilliant, Fez has that in spades. We’re talking about a game where every detail feels deliberate and mysterious. That’s not an exaggeration either. With maybe one exception, there’s not a single puzzle in Fez that you couldn’t necessarily figure out in some way from clues in the world. They might be obscure, difficult to interpret clues, but they’re there. Add in a soundtrack that is hauntingly beautiful and a rotating mechanic that is as fun as anything else you’ve ever done and you’ve got the most interesting experience of 2012. I can still pull up intense memories of the empty solitude of some of the screens and the fitting music that made me feel isolated, alone, a little scared, and a little excited to discover a cube or an anticube. Fez was awesome, guys.

MAY

Diablo 3 – I’ve had this talk with Min so many times, but maybe I didn’t understand what Diablo was before I played D3. I’d only ever played D2 with my brother or a few friends. It was a small-scale endeavor and Torchlight, its closest analogue for me, was a single-player affair. There was no Auction House there to circumvent loot drops or other players to set up trades with on forums. There was the purity of the RNG and the thrill of the hunt. Diablo 3 awakened that feeling inside me that activates when I feel like I’ve been cheated. It was like I took the red pill and I saw the Matrix of the game for the first time when I realized what I’d have to do to beat the game on Inferno. I’ve never felt like a game’s systems were so transparently evil before (I don’t play Facebook games) and Diablo 3 soured me on Blizzard as a developer. Maybe next year you’ll see an entry about Heart of the Swarm, but as of right now, thanks to Diablo 3, I plan on never spending another cent on a Blizzard game (unless a new Warcraft RTS comes out. I actually like those).

Tropico 4 – Min likes to tease me about being an evil dictator when I play this game, but it’s much more complicated for me. When I play Tropico I don’t exercise my ability to rig elections or execute citizens at will. I do my best to be a benevolent leader and resist the control/interference of the US or USSR. I do my best to make the tropical paradise that I feel my people have been denied. It’s a deeply (and weirdly) personal experience for me. Plus the music is pretty sweet.

JUNE

The Binding of Isaac: Wrath of the Lamb – Yeah, yeah, expansion pack for a game that I played relentlessly last year. I don’t care, guys, it was almost a new game with how much it added. If you read my blog and you tried/enjoyed FTL, you really should check this out.

No More Heroes: Paradise – I think I’m at assassin #7 or #6? It’s got its purposefully tedious parts in it and it’s so stylized that it’s hilarious, but it lost some steam with me and I never finished it. Whoops.

JULY

Spelunky – Forget what that other guy said about the best game of this year because Spelunky is awesome. It’s so sharp in the way that it plays. Die and it’s almost 100% your fault. Brutally difficult, endearingly fun and funny, and tightly controlled. I only wish I had more friends to play local multiplayer with.

Penny Arcade 2 – Not as funny as PA1 and not as fun as PA3

Penny Arcade 3 – PA goes 16-bit RPG. The combat is frighteningly difficult, but the game is tons of fun because of it. These new classes are super neat. It’s like they figured out all the boundaries to RPG combat and sharpened them to a knife’s edge. Really interesting, but easy to bone yourself with bad class selection.

Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion – Each game takes forever, but playing a few matches with Min was tons of fun.

Greed Corp – Did not like. Sorry, Eric.

Puzzle Agent – Tried this before I went down the Professor Layton rabbit’s hole. Surprisingly funny and surprisingly well-written. I’m fairly certain that these didn’t sell well enough to keep making them, but I really enjoyed the setting and the story. Very cute.

Max Payne 3 – I’m the guy who’s never played a Max Payne game before so when I play this grimy, glitzy, greasy shooter I’m unburdened by Payne’s history. There’s no comparison to the way it used to be or the way I wanted a sequel to be. It’s just an awesome shooter with a dumb, but neat story. Brazil is here to stay as a setting and even though Rockstar characters are all deplorable assholes who I hate, I had a soft spot for Max and Giovanna. Pretty solid shooter.

Sonic Generations – Modern Sonic games suck. All of them. Everyone who thinks Generations is “not that bad” or “good” is wrong. You’re wrong.

BIT.TRIP.RUNNER – A rhythm game! I didn’t realize it before I tried it. The first boss fight sucks and I stopped playing after it. I hear that was a mistake.

AUGUST

Persona 4 Arena – I got a little bogged down by being forced to play other perspectives before finishing the main narrative, but the continuation of the Persona story was solid enough to make me interested in the game, even if I didn’t really care for the fighting mechanic. Guys, who knew a fighting game could have a sweet story?

Driver: San Francisco – Didn’t get enough in to say anything definitive, but I don’t really like the car mechanics.

Trine 2 – I don’t think either of these Trine games are for me, but I’ve only ever played 5 hours of a Trine game ever. It’s the physics model. I don’t like the imprecision in a platformer. I had the same issue with Little Big Planet.

Iron Brigade – The most frustrating networking experience of 2012. It’s a shame too because Min, Lee, and I should have loved playing this.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive – Goddammit I love me some Counter-Strike. I didn’t put that many hours into this, but playing it with Simon and some of the old War Cry guys was awesome. If you have any interest in shooters, but you don’t play this…well I don’t understand you.

Orcs Must Die 2 – Not the best tower defense game, but I think I’m under 10 hrs with it so maybe it picks up?

The Last Story – Got so bogged down writing about this with David (remember that feature?) that I never continued it. Lots of promise there with characters that seem deeper than your usual anime bullshit, but I need to give it another 20 hours to be sure.

SEPTEMBER

Mark of the Ninja – The tightest stealth game (mechanics-wise) you will ever play. Seriously, man. It’s pretty boss. The story is fairly dumb, but playing it is so much fun that you can’t help but smile. A solid win in my book.

FTL: Faster Than Light – I’ve recorded 31.5 hours of me playing this game as of when I write this sentence. A game that has such tight mechanics that you can’t help but love it. This was the year of roguelikes for me. FTL plays like the space sim you always wish you had. I don’t see myself getting bored of this game until I unlock all the ships. That won’t be for a while because I’m somewhat terrible with some of the ships, but I do love me this game.

New Super Mario Bros. 2
– More Mario platforming. Not the most inspired Mario game, but it has its moments. Not gonna set the world on fire and, like the first one, not my favorite Mario game.

Torchlight 2 – I can’t really claim to have played this game since the first day was a clusterfuck and I didn’t get past the menu screen. Had tons of fun chatting with Min and his cousin though.

Borderlands 2 – Until the very end of December I was the only one of my close video gaming friends who had this game. As a solo affair (and even as a group affair), the early parts of this game are pretty terrible/boring/tedious. In a group I’ve enjoyed playing this tons more. It’s just fun to have three friends rolling around Pandora with you. I hope we keep playing.

Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy – I love rhythm games. I love Final Fantasy music. This game is beautiful and perfect and could only be made better with more FF VI music.

Kirby’s Dream Collection – Picked it up to own Kirby Super Star. Played a bit of that with Min. Lots of fun, but not gonna set the world on fire.

OCTOBER

Professor Layton and the Last Specter – Played it for a few minutes because it was the only sequel I could find in the store. Based on those few minutes I bought the rest of the franchise.

Pokemon White Version 2 – I wish I hadn’t pushed Min and David to get Black and White because the Version 2s are so much better. There has never been a better put together Pokemon game. I’ve sunk over a hundred hours into this game playing it Nuzlocke style and I still have yet to defeat the Elite Four or Team Plasma. I’m not kidding, guys, this is the closest you can come to a perfect Pokemon game.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown – Ok, for realsies now, guys. This is the best game of the year. Just so much fun to play in Classic Ironman mode where every mistake is locked in place and humanity hangs in the balance. Tactical, turn-based combat has never been better implemented and every system works well. My only gripe is that you “can’t fail” the final mission in the sense that losing it sends you to the start. Losing an Ironman run in the final mission would be brilliant (and sadistic), wouldn’t it?

Professor Layton and the Curious Village – It has a fairly ridiculous plot twist that almost makes zero sense and doesn’t hit with any oomph, but you’re supposed to be here for the puzzles anyway. They’re fun and the characters are charming enough that I’m more than happy to spend hours upon hours just completing brain teasers.

Need for Speed: Most Wanted – I wish this was more Burnout Paradise instead. I don’t like the way the “campaign” is laid out with the unlocks for all the cars. I hate how I have to earn nitro every time I swap cars. It’s just not as good as the Burnout stuff. I’m sorry. That said, it’s so much fun to race at top speed in real-world automobiles. Super fun.

Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask – The 365 puzzles (one a day) and the fact that I bought it digitally are what keeps me coming back to this game over and over again since I haven’t yet beaten the previous iterations. Solid puzzle work and a great 3DS package, but I can’t wait to actually see the narrative.

Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box – More Layton, but on a train!

To the Moon – The Walking Dead kind of ruined this game for me. Everyone was lauding it as this grand, mature narrative, but then The Walking Dead goes and does something truly spectacular while To the Moon failed to really hit with me. The twist was neat and I dug the story, but I didn’t find it to be as amazing as I’d heard. It’s solid storytelling in a mediocre engine package, but it’s worth checking out for sure.

NOVEMBER

Hotline Miami – Certainly the game that’s inspired the most cackling laughter in me. Just brutal, ugly, sleazy, and weird. Hotline Miami has a kickass soundtrack and relentless gameplay. The bosses are kind of obnoxious, but it plays fairly sharply and I’d recommend it to almost anyone.

Nintendo Land – Fantastic in group settings, but somewhat lacking as a solo endeavor. I’m happy to own it and I think asynchronous information/capabilities makes for way more interesting games than the same old stuff we’re used to, but without a group to play this it can get a little boring.

New Super Mario Bros. U – Haven’t put a lot of time in it, but the course design is definitely superior to the DS version. Can’t wait to beat this with Min, but I’m not breaking down any doors to play it.

Donkey Kong Country Returns – I’m only two worlds in, but it feels slighter/weaker than the old DKCs. We’ll see how it pans out, I guess.

DECEMBER

Sleeping Dogs – I’m getting open world fatigue pretty early in this one. Unlike Saints Row: The Third, this is more serious and I feel like not being ridiculous is to its detriment. Sleeping Dogs’ dating system is ridiculous and the cop story is fairly predictable, but I’m in love with the Hong Kong setting and the fact that this is a game not taking place in LA, NY, or Miami. Also really nice to see non-white protagonists. The Batman fighting style is neat, but, like I said, already hitting open world fatigue.

999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors – I’m glad I played and finished this before the end of the year because it’s absolutely brilliant. Any game that uses the mechanics of the system its on is an instant plus for me and the final puzzle/revelation is brilliant. How many games make you think about morphic resonance and information transfer like this one? Just the fact that I found myself thinking about philosophical questions like Locke’s Socks/The Ship of Theseus and that it ALL MADE SENSE was really brilliant. Look, visual novels are divisive, but you shouldn’t let that get in your way. 999 has one of the neatest stories of the year (2010) and it’s easily one of my favorite games this year.

What I’ve Been Doing 27 Dec 2012 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Dec 27th, 2012 by Dan

Finalized Christmas Tree

Cabin pictures aren’t up on flickr yet, so here’s Eric’s home tree (Photo by DJOtaku)

The long drive from North Carolina is over and I had a lot of fun while I was with the family for Christmas. I hope all of you had a great holiday too.

Movies

The Dark Knight Rises – Watched it with my Dad over the holiday since he hadn’t seen it. I still think it’s a little bloated, but it was nice to see the same Nolan care for detail the second time through and know what was leading to what.

Juan de los muertos – Saw this with my old man too. I think he was unamused by the more crude bits of humor and the plot aimlessness, but I think he was entertained by the Cuban slang and the setting.

TV

Happy Endings – The Jane-mas thing was hilarious, guys. I mean, Alex and her sexual present opening fetish? Max and his eggnog spraying everywhere? The final dance off?! This show is so brilliant.

Glee – Saw the pastiche episode that was trying to be like Love, Actually. I was pretty firmly unimpressed, but that’s not a surprise for me and Glee nowadays.

Music

Eric gave me the Final Fantasy VI soundtrack for Christmas and it’s pretty boss. Here’s Terra’s Theme.

Books

A Confederacy of Dunces – Ignatius has been fired from Levy Pants and is now in flux. I’m curious if that means we’ll be abandoning the Levy’s or not. I bet they’ll be involved later.

Video Games

The Old Republic – Started the HK questline. Boy it’s not that interesting at all. Just a fetch quest across planets so far. Bummer…

999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors – Finished all but the True Ending. I’ve figured out a lot of details about Seven, Lotus, Snake, and Ace, but Clover, Santa, June, the Ninth Man remain enigmas. I’m really excited to see where this story goes because all the morphogenetics and information passing stuff seems crazy interesting.

Street Fighter x Mega Man – Beat Chun Li, but couldn’t manage the other levels quite yet. A pretty neat little game, but the lack of even a password system makes it a little tough to deal with.

Hotline Miami – The hospital escape and the police station assault levels were not fun and kind of freaky/weird to play. I think I’m getting close to the end, but I also need to go back and get the rest of the password glowy pixels.

Nintendo Land – Played so much of that with the family. Mario Chase is really fun with a lot of folks and I even managed to beat Donkey Kong. Love it.

Pac-Man CE DX – I’ve said so much about how amazing this game is. Do I need to say more? Man do I love eating those long ghost chains…

Spelunky – Played some with David. That was lots of fun as we quickly did tremendous damage to each other. Good times.

What I’ve Been Doing 10 Sept 2012 {FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Sep 10th, 2012 by Dan

2456259-psy-ladies-gangnam-style-617-409

오빤 강남 스타일! (Photo courtesy Music Star22)

This week was ridiculous, guys. I mean, so much K-Pop and so much Jazz! It’s like highs and lows here. Add in some fantastic TV shows and ninjas and you’ve got my media week.

Movies

Sleepwalk With Me – Mike Birbiglia and Ira Glass’ first joint movie project was a resounding success. It’s pretty much an adaptation of his stage show, but, as Min pointed out, we’ve seen this performed two or three times and it still feels really fresh. An excellent freshman effort. Catch it if it hasn’t left your city.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang – Looking for something to watch that she hadn’t seen, we settled on this. Man, I’d forgotten how fun this movie is. Just brisk and exciting. Ends one time too many, but otherwise great.

The Incredibles – Had this on the tube and it caught Tiffany’s imagination. Pulled out the blu-ray and watched it for maybe the third time ever. Guys, this movie is pretty awesome, even if it has weird message issues. I mean, being special is good, right? I get that, but why make a villain out of the guy who has pulled himself up by his bootstraps to make something out of himself? Buddy is misunderstood (and evil).

TV

Breaking Bad – HOLY COW! I’ve been forcing myself to slow down my consumption of these episodes because it’s just been SO GREAT. Season 3 really brought it together and taught me why everyone thinks this show is awesome. So masterful!

Kids on the Slope – What a charming, touching, musically amazing show that was. It’s only 12 episodes long, so it doesn’t overstay its welcome and it’s interesting the whole way through. You should check this anime out. It’s on CrunchyRoll right now for free.

The Daily Show – DNC time! The segments weren’t as biting (and the acceptance one was a remixed version of the RNC platform one), but they still had some good zingers for the DNC, such as the platform change vote.

NTSF:SD:SUV – Only my second episode of this madness, but the Time Angels stuff was hilarious. Sharp writing on this episode for the fake backdoor pilot.

Childrens Hospital – I love the “behind the scenes” episodes of this show. Too bad I missed the first half, but I’m sure I’ll catch it on reruns soon.

Pretty Little Liars – GUYS…this show is bonkers. It’s insane. Thank god I have Jacob Clifton’s recaps to read and laugh about. The show’s not bad, but man is it trashy and hilarious in all the right ways.

Fashion Police – Joan Rivers makes vagina jokes! No real complaints here. I can deal with this by now.

Cupcake Wars – So many strained Star Wars references. So many weird ingredients.

Music

“Gangnam Style” is AMAZING. How did I miss this when it came out?!

Super catchy and super ridiculous/bizarre/awesome. Psy is incredible in this video.

Like I said above, I spent a lot of this week listening to Jazz too. Here’s the best segment from Kids on the Slope:

That medley is just fantastic. Such a brilliant scene.

Books

I promise I’ll get back to reading soon!

Video Games

Driver: San Francisco – Evading the cops sucks. Couldn’t get it quite right, but I dug some of the driving. I’ll have to give it a little more time.

Spelunky – Started trying to speedrun for the 8 minute achievement after I got the Casanova one. Made it to the caves once, but it’s hard to just blow through these levels.

Mark of the Ninja – The Giant Bomb guys talked this game up like it was awesome. It is lots of fun. I like how clear all the stealth stuff is, but I wish it were a little easier to stun/not kill some of the guards. I feel like some puzzles very early in the game require you to kill or set off an alarm and that’s a bummer.

What I’ve Been Doing 4 Sept 2012 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Sep 4th, 2012 by Dan

Home (For Now)

So long former basement abode. Good riddance!

I’ve been officially Min’s roommate for a week+ and it’s been awesome so far. So glad to not be in that basement…

Movies

Margaret – This was a really challenging movie. The plot centers around a 17-year-old girl who inadvertently causes a bus accident that kills a pedestrian, throwing her life into chaos as she struggles to deal with her guilt among friends and family that she feels don’t get her. It’s a real hurricane of emotions and it vividly reminded me of the idealism and stupidity of my teenage years. I wouldn’t really recommend it to anyone looking for a light diversion, but it was still good.

TV

Girls – FINALLY got around to watching the last two episodes of the season. It’s challenging in a completely different way as Hannah and her friends are almost aggressively unlikeable and behave in the most selfish ways at every opportunity. That’s what makes it great, really, but I can see why some might not like it.

Veep – Just biting and brutal and mean and so much fun to watch. I cackle every time I tune in. Can’t wait for season 2

Breaking Bad – That scene at the end of “Over” where Walter warns that guy to stay out of his territory…Chilling. Letting Jane die was straight up ice too. In fact, this show just gets more and more brutal and I love it. Walter is a force to be dealt with and his actions/decisions are fascinating. I feel really bad for Jesse who’s stuck in the middle of it.

The Daily Show – The election season is upon us! Thought I’d get back into TDS, see what it’s about nowadays. I picked an interesting time to tune in…All the Tampa bashing was a little much, but some of those segments were brilliant! The Samantha Bee abortion platform one was particularly brilliant.

Kids on the Slope – Finally set up my CrunchyRoll free trial on my PS3 so that I could watch this show. It’s very anime-y, but it’s also very awesome in an understated way. Really the best reason to watch this is for the fantastic soundtrack. So glad that Watanabe and Kanno teamed up again for this.

Music

Written for Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, “Some Day My Prince Will Come” is, naturally, a Disney staple. Go to the park and I guarantee you’ll hear it. It’s never been a favorite of mine, but Kids on the Slope has convinced me of how well it can work. They use Bill Evans’ cover of it and it’s quite nice.

Books

Not this week.

Video Games

Trine 2 – Got some time in with Min. Not bad. I like the ninja rope person.

EDIT: Min has reminded me that I played this last week. Scratch this from the record!

Iron Brigade – Using the XBL/GFWL servers sucks. Took Lee, Min, and I somewhere around 30 mins to an hour to get a multiplayer match working smoothly, but once we did we had quite a bit of fun.

Spelunky – This was the crowning achievement of my weekend. I may not have beaten Hell, but Min and I made lots of progress, including beating it co-op with two members alive. Now the uphill battle to Hell…

“Soy un sobreviviente” – What I’ve Been Doing 27 Aug 2012 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Aug 27th, 2012 by Dan

Imagen de 'Juan de los muertos'

The zombie apocalypse in Cuba (Picture courtesy Casa de América)

Busy week of prepping to move and moving, but that didn’t stop me from getting some media in…

Movies

Juan de los muertos – It’s not the greatest movie in the world, but it’s pretty damn awesome. I don’t get to see a lot of movies about Cuba or set in Cuba and this was a real pleasure. I mean, now that I don’t live in Miami, how often do I get to hear people speak Spanish the way I’m used to hearing it? I loved this movie and I’d recommend it to anyone who digs a zombie comedy.

TV

Workaholics – I’d heard good things about this comedy somewhere, but I was left feeling a little lukewarm. It’s not bad, but I don’t enjoy it as much as, say, The League. I do dig the unlovable leads, at least.

30 for 30: Unguarded – ESPN’s documentary series is pretty awesome, guys. A ton of them are on Netflix now too. I mean, I really don’t like basketball, but this documentary about Chris Herren’s struggles with drugs was very interesting. The story’s not groundbreaking, but it’s heartfelt and done well.

Top Gear – Jeremy races the other two across Japan in a sports car while they take Japanese public transportation. Very funny competition. I love it when they do challenges on this show.

Community – My S3 box set came in this week so I watched the first episode. Man do I love these guys. Can’t wait for their S4 return!

Breaking Bad – Bob Odenkirk’s debut was perfectly timed and this show is really on a roll in S2. His line, “Right now you’re Fredo,” was amazing and pretty chilling. I’m way back in.

Pretty Little Liars – Gotta pay your dues. Saw the first ever episode with Tiffany (she hadn’t seen it either). Not as terrible as you might think, but still a show that’s clearly not for me.

Music

B.O.B.’s dropped a new record recently. These two tracks (one with Andre 3000 and the other with Nicki Minaj) are pretty hot. I’m pretty sure they’ll end up on my tumblr in a few weeks, but enjoy them for now.

Books

Another week where I let my brain rot.

Video Games

Team Fortress 2 – It feels like ages ago since I first started playing Mann vs. Machine, but I love this mode. Can’t wait to get some more time in this week, but the move is gonna get in the way.

Iron Brigade – Only played a map or two, but Lee, Min, and I will save the world from the TV menace!

Orcs Must Die 2 – Decent tower defense game. Hope to play with Lee or Yin too since they seem to be pros.

The Last Story – Just started playing this and discussing it with David. Expect more in this space soon. Very interesting so far.

Persona 4 Arena – Finally starting to finish stories. Still one more big mystery to uncover.

Trine 2 – Finally started playing some with Min. I like the co-op and I really like the weirdness of the physics engine. Ninja rope for life!

Spelunky – Made it to Hell for the first time! I got a few levels in before I died too! Brutal, brutal stuff.

Mann vs. Machine – What I’ve Been Doing 21 Aug 2012 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Aug 20th, 2012 by Dan

Big video game week for me while simultaneously being a terrible week for tv that I would normally watch. Since I did most of my watching at Tiffany’s…well…I think you can guess what kind of tv I was subjected to.

Movies

Jeff, Who Lives At Home – It’s my first Duplass brothers film and I kind of dug it. Not amazing by any stretch, but a breezy, fun way to spend about 77 minutes. It’s one of those coincidence/fate type of films, but it’s got such a pure heart about the whole thing that it just feels right. Like the Kevin basketball game stuff, I mean, that was just beautiful as Jason Segel and Evan Ross connected on a level that was beyond words. They were a team unit and they dominated that game, which made the betrayal that much more heartbreaking. Ed Helms did a fantastic job as an asshole, but I gotta admit that the Susan Sarandon parts fell flat for me. Just not that interesting at all.

TV

Friends – Killed some time watching old Friends episodes. “How old?” you ask. We’re talking S1, Rachel meets that Italian guy who she dates for a while old. Pre-Ross and Rachel make out in the rain old. That old. The show still has its charm, but it’s weird to see them in a state where they don’t all know exactly who they are yet.

Fashion Police – Guys, straight talk express here. Ryan Lochte was on Fashion Police this week. That guy is the biggest idiot I’ve ever seen. I just wanted to laugh every time he opened his dumb mouth, but not because he was funny, no, because I was amazed that a person could come off so poorly on television.

Pretty Little Liars – This show is about some person who murders these girls’ friends? I don’t really understand what’s going on here. It’s like Veronica Mars a bit, but with a larger group of Veronicas who are all rich and impossibly good looking. They’re all in high school, I guess, but one of them lives with her boyfriend in an apartment? I dunno. I don’t really get it. It was ok, but I’m not about to break out the box set or anything.

Breaking Bad – The show got a little slow when they were unable to cook, but now that they’re moving product again and we’ve got the promise of having to introduce some muscle to the operation…I’m digging it, man. I love how cold and unconcerned Walter acts toward Jesse. Dude is a total asshole to him. Also loved how fucked up the meth heads who robbed Skinny Pete looked. Hey, guys, that’s the true face of meth. It’s not pretty.

Top Chef Masters – Felt proud of myself for properly guessing that Lorena was Venezuelan. Other than that…it’s just not as exciting to see professional chefs do their professions for charity. The stakes are too low.

Drop Dead Diva – This show is still pretty ridiculous with its take on the law, not to mention that I’m constantly distracted by how much not-Judy Greer looks like Judy Greer to me. Highlight of the episode HAS to be Chef Ben-Israel who was delightfully bizarre, per usual.

Music

I guess I didn’t do much music listening this week, but…BUT I had Alex Cuba’s “En Armonia” stuck in my head all weekend. Here’s a performance at Stubb’s. The conversation is kind of annoying (and there is some clipping), but it’s still a fantastic song.

Books

Does the color reprint of Scott Pilgrim count?

Video Games

Persona 4 Arena – I do really like the way that the story mode works and is progressing, but I’m more annoyed with the way that they’re all “To be continued…” until you unlock certain stories. I’m almost there though, guys. Just a little longer and I’ll start clearing stories like crazy. The fighting game itself is pretty tough, but the story is great.

Spelunky – Not as much time this week as I should have played, but I’ve been rushing too much and not making it as far as I should. Still haven’t beaten it from the mines because I’m focusing on the City of Gold too much.

Metal Gear Solid 4 – Had a rather unfortunate mishap where I accidentally saved after getting an alert on my save file. It’s my fault for only having one save file. Now I’ve got plenty to revert to and I’m back to Act II in about the same position. I’ll keep pushing forward on this trophy mode for an hour or so each night.

The Old Republic – Mini-event that was kind of “meh”, but still net me a bowcaster. Just release HK already, guys.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive – The beta opened up to everyone who pre-ordered on Tuesday. Pretty solid game. Guess what, guys? It’s CS. The addition of the gun game mode is pretty nice, I dig that, but the meat and potatoes remains bomb planting/defusal and hostage taking/rescuing. Love it. Best pure shooter out there.

Team Fortress 2 – Most fun shooter probably goes to TF2 though. Mann vs. Machine…it’s tough, but it’s also really cool to have a completely different paradigm and completely new goals to work toward. If your team composition/teammates are kind of terrible, well this is gonna be a giant ball of aggravation and stress, but it’s otherwise lots of fun. I just want to play Scout all match though. Let me do that, please!

Driver: San Francisco – Only played like 20 mins of this. Not too bad, but man do those muscle cars have terrible understeer. Or is it oversteer? Guys, I don’t know anything about cars or driving.

»  Substance:WordPress   »  Style:Ahren Ahimsa