Analogously

July 23rd, 2010 | Posted by Jason Imms in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

I guess Kotaku are liking my reivews?

Limbo (XBLA)

Winner of the Visual Arts and Technical Excellence awards at the Independent Games Festival for 2010, Limbo has successfully navigated its way through the dark forest of small budget independant game development and into the neon-bright halls of XBLA’s Winter (Summer for those of you on the other side of the equator) of Arcade. Limbo is a powerful, foreboding experience which pits a seemingly helpless young boy against a barbarous world, the few inhabitants of which ready to pounce on any and every misstep.

Loved

Loneliness: Limbo is oppresively atmospheric. The entire game is rendered in a black/grey/white and from a multi-plane 2D side-scrolling perspective. There is very little text in the game outside of the main menu, even to the exclusion of any sort of objective. The player quicly learns which objects in the environment are dangerous, though mostly thanks to have been brutally ravaged by it previous to being dropped back at one of the game’s frequent checkpoints. The game’s soundtrack is incredibly sparse, the most common sound effect being the depressingly lonely footsteps of the protagonist. Music is all-but absent aside from a subtle score presented as though from the oversized horn of a phonograph.

Tactile: The way that the protagonist moves just feels right. Timing jumps, climbing both up and down ledges, ladders ropes etc are all very intuitive. You will never find yourself dying thanks to unresponsive controls, there is little here for a poor workman to blame. Limbo is not complicated, control-wise. Move with the left analogue stick, A to jump, B to interact. Complexity comes with how the protagonist is able to interact with the world, and perhaps more aptly, how the world interacts with the protagonist.

If At First You Don’t Succeed: The game’s ability to chew you up and spit you out (sometimes, quite literally) would normally result in many players frustrated by the difficulty. In this instance, the game checkpoints very frequently. This means that you will most likely not need to replay a difficult section after being perforated immediately by the one following it.

Moreish: I found this game incredibly difficult to put down. There is a lot to drive you forward here, from the beautifully terrifying scenery and the new and interesting puzzles to the reveal of a new, shocking expository story element. The game is short, but I think that plays to its strengths, much like a certain other short, brilliant albeit cake-obsessed puzzle game.

Hated

Creepy: The art and audio direction of the game is surprisingly horrifying. Deaths are visceral. I generally hate this term thanks to its over/misuse, but in this case it is both literal and accurate. Not for the fainthearted.

Very Little: I guess it’s kind of short? Clocks in at around three hours. I struggle to find fault with this game.

Playdead is to be commended for this title, preferably through the purchase and recommendation of the product. Limbo is an absolute must-have for Xbox 360 owners.

Promulgation

July 22nd, 2010 | Posted by Jason Imms in Reviews - (3 Comments)

I got published!

I wrote a Reader Review for Kotaku Australia. Evidently it passed muster and was posted to the main feed.

I’m not sure what else to say about it, other than to paste it here holus-bolus. It doesn’t really deserve to be reposted here, but I’m pretty pleased about it and it’s my blog, so there.

DeathSpank (XBLA)

From the mind Ron Gilbert of Monkey Island fame, DeathSpank is a RPG-lite title in the vein of the Diablo series, utilising a controller instead of a mouse and keyboard (until it arrives on PC and PSN anyway). Our hero, the titular DeathSpank, dispenses Justice through the use of magic, crazy weapons and utter heroic stupidity.

Loved

Humour: This is a funny game. Everything from item and quest descriptions, monsters and regularly respawning/teleporting via a system of outhouses exude a Gilbert-esque charm. Fans of Monkey Island will welcome the familiar tone.

Voice Acting: The game is entirely voice acted. Every character DeathSpank meets along his journey is full to bursting with one-liners and innuendo.

Action: DeathSpank’s penchant for meting out painful Justice upon pretty much everything in his path provides many opportunities to hit X enemy with Y weapon. Melee attacks are supported by some ranged damage via the use of crossbows and magical abilities provided by Justice Attacks.

Co-op: Drop-in/drop-out co-operative play is supported through the use of DeathSpank’s sidekick Sparkles the Mage. Sparkles is equipped with a stock set of unchangeable abilities which level up with DeathSpank including a magic bolt, heal spell, exploding clones and flamethrower-like attacks. A one-choice character select screen implies that further co-op characters will be available in the future via DLC.

Phat Loots: There are a huge number of items available to DeathSpank throughout the world. Armour sets, weapons, potions, limited one-shot powers and even a poop hammer are at your disposal.

Locales: The world of DeathSpank is a colourful 3D environment populated by numerous quest givers, monsters, treasure chests and 2D pseudo-sprite features. The entire area is presented with an exaggerated curvature to give the impression of distance. I suspect this is also an attempt to limit the amount of terrain displayed at any one time for the sake of performance.

Hated

Voice Acting: As welcome as full voice acting is, it can become wearisome, especially in the case of DeathSpank himself. Luckily, all conversation can be skipped through liberal use of the B button.

Abilities: Despite the sheer number of items available throughout the game, most players will find themselves sticking with melee attacks. Most ranged weapons are woefully underpowered compared to level-appropriate melee weapons and all other abilities are provided through rare one-shot items. Some non-item based magical ability would be welcome.

Lite: This is definitely RPG-lite. Steer clear if story and character development are an important factor in your purchase.

Length: The game is only 6-8 hours long, depending on your patience for side quests. This is ameliorated by the $US15/$AU19.80 price tag.

DeathSpank is a title well worth the asking price if you enjoy a light-hearted RPG romp through colourful locales littered with fragile enemies to dispatch with wild abandon. Playing with a friend makes Ron Gilbert’s particular brand of lols all the more lolable. Highly recommended.

Transmogrification

June 28th, 2010 | Posted by Jason Imms in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Kee kurr kee kurrch jown.

This onomatopoeia coined by Jerry Holkins of Penny Arcade fame is the sum of my childhood TV time, toys, daydreams and games-played-with-friends. The earnest wish that I were a huge robot, one capable of transforming into some kind of vehicle was both powerful yet unattainable.
It’s hard to nail down exactly what it was about the Transformers that captured the imaginations of so many of my generation. Whatever the reason, the results speak for themselves. Even when the show became little more than a thinly veiled vehicle for toy sales, the fans simply kept watching and begging their parents to buy them the latest of the seemingly endless cavalcade of characters introduced in every single episode of the later seasons.

Growing up, I would approach the idea of painful medical procedures with a bittersweet enthusiasm. Whenever I required an injection, liquid nitrogen wart removal or a tooth filling, I would simply keep reminding myself that following the pain would be a visit to the local toy shop, or as I liked to call it: Transformer Town.
I still have an original cast-iron Optimus Prime, a double-sized Starscream, and a box full of other classic G1 Transformers.

Since then many other beloved franchises have been chewed up and spat out by a Hollywood that insists on constantly repackaging and selling my childhood back to me. I held high hopes for the Michael Bay adaptation of Transformers, only to be shown that some things simply don’t translate well to the modern era.

Subsequently when I initially heard about Transformers: War For Cybertron for the Xbox 360, I was sceptical. Trailers and Dev Diaries slowly piqued my interest until I saw the reveal trailer.
Yesssssssssss.

Could this be the Transformers game that we’ve always wanted? Will our dreams of a G1-worthy game or movie finally come true?
Kind of.

The singleplayer side of the game is split into two campaigns, one for the Decepticons and one for the Autobots. They’re designed to be played in this order as the events of the first set up the second, but the player is provided with the option of starting with either. Seeing the fight from both sides would be a interesting experience if it weren’t for the fact that the story side of things is a little campy. The Decepticons are fighting because Megatron wants power, while the Autobots are fighting to save Cybertron from their corruption. It’s all very thin, but that’s ok because it is incredibly true to the source, right down to the Matrix of Leadership and the ‘bot’s ability to scan items onto their form.

I think this is what I like about it. The whole experience shouts of the developer’s love of the Transformers. Especially visually, the character designs, levels and animations are all exactly what the fans wanted to see and were disappointed to find absent in Michael Bay’s attempts. The characters themselves are covered in plates and vents which move of their own accord, their purpose unknown. They make the characters seem like living (albeit, metallic) beings, rather than more generic robots. The voice acting also helps to accentuate this as the talent High Moon Studios have brought to bear can’t be understated, especially thanks to Peter Cullen making yet another return to the role of Optimus Prime. He lends an authenticity to these experiences which can’t be understated. Without him, I’m not sure how future attempts will fare. Perhaps the use of Optimus Prime will be precluded by his eventual absence?
The world of Cybertron itself also lends a lot to the atmosphere they’ve created. As you move through the world, doors open with a mysterious yet familiar transformation, walkways materialise in front of you as you move down them at great speed and even the usual load-obscuring elevator rides all feel very, Transformery.

Unfortunately, all of these things only really appeal to fans of the old TV series. The gameplay itself is nothing revolutionary. All of the usual 3rd person shooter trappings are present save for a sorely missing cover system, the levels are linear and the weapons are bog standard, if setting-appropriate.
The class-based multiplayer is on the other hand, a whole lot of fun. In fact many reviewers believe this to be the meat and potatoes of the title. I have to admit, the aerialbots are going to be where I spend the majority of my multiplayer time. The ability to transform into an incredibly fast-moving aircraft at any time is fun indeed.

In summary, your enjoyment of the game will come down to nostalgia. As a fan of the original series, I found a lot to love in the singleplayer campaign. I can say with absolute certainty that this is the best game of all time featuring an altruistic truck.

Recapitulation

May 11th, 2010 | Posted by Jason Imms in Uncategorized - (6 Comments)

We have spent the artificially extended weekend in Sydney with the lovely Huw and Emma. It has been absolutely wonderful.

This was not in line with my expectations.

That isn’t to say that we weren’t expecting time spent with our newly distant family members to be wonderful, it’s that plane travel with two tiny tiny tinies is by all accounts something to be feared. The night previous to our trip, I was freaking out a bit. Packing interspersed with tending to crying tinies made me wonder how the heck we were going to fare.

We were late to the airport which worried us more than it seemed to worry the staff. The traditionally surly security staff were moved to smiles, the famous Hobart Airport Grumpy Security Guy even apologised for requiring us to remove our sleeping babies from their carriers in order to run them through the x-ray machine (the carriers, not the babies).
After a bit of mucking around getting the girls back into their slings, we were on the plane.

I must say, the staff at Virgin Blue are to be commended for the way they handle families, especially families with twins. I’ve always been happy with the service I’ve received from Virgin Blue, but I’ve never before required any actual assistance due to my familiarity with plane travel. Let’s just say that having an extra pair of hands willing to hold a baby while one attends to their bladder’s requisite unburdening is a welcome luxury.

One painless plane trip later, we were on the ground in Sydney. Emma picked us up in a car that was graciously lent to us by an unknown benefactor. A product of a web of friends of friends, ending in a particularly generous couple who happened to own a car which already contained two car seats.

The following is a summary of our weekend in order to limit the length of this post.
Friday-
Lunch: Red Oak. A steak sandwich was nommed with a Special Strong Bitter and an IPA, both of which stood up to my high expectations.
Dinner: Wood fired pizza from Melinzana, along with some import beers: Chimay Triple, Samuel Adams Pale Ale, Samuel Adams Organic Ale and Weihenstephaner Pilsner.
Saturday-
Late Breakfast: Hoochie Mamma Big Breakfast and coffee, followed by a trip across the road to Campos for a wonderful Double Ristretto and a bag of their Superior blend.
Lunch: None, still full from breakfast.
Outing: Pool and beers with Huw at the local.
Dinner: Thai from Thai La-Ong with more of the above imports.
Outing: John Mayer live in concert while Huw and Emma looked after the girls. This was somewhat harrowing, leaving our girls behind for their first ever babysitting. Let’s just say that phones were checked regularly.
Sunday (Amy’s first Mother’s Day!)-
Breakfast: Homemade Emma Pancakes with poached pear and maple syrup.
Outing: Amy and Emma attended a market while the men looked after the babies.
Lunch: Shenkin’s world famous wraps. (Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm) Edit: Also one quarter of a portion of their vanilla slice. So rich, but soooo awesome.
Outing: A tasting paddle from The Local Taphouse, chili chips with parmesan mayo and finishing with a pint of Trumers Pils.
Dinner: Homemade Awesome Risotto by Emma with more of the above imports.
Monday-
Activity: Preparations for home.
Lunch: Peking Pork from Sydney airport. Surprisingly good.

The flight home was just as uneventful. The girls were wonderfully well behaved and required little intervention from us.

All in all, a successful trip. A hugely risky one, but successful nonetheless.

Re: Supposition

May 3rd, 2010 | Posted by Jason Imms in Uncategorized - (3 Comments)

Proof!

Supposition

April 29th, 2010 | Posted by Jason Imms in Uncategorized - (2 Comments)

Upon greeting me in the morning, it is common for my workmates to enquire as to my demeanour.

“How are you?”
This is a dangerous question. My natural defences haven’t had a chance to replenish themselves at this time of day, nor have I had the opportunity to artificially shore them up with some sort of caffeinated beverage. It is far more likely that this question can dig it’s way right through to my gooey centre, my reaction more reflexive than reflective.

“Muarghiftl.”
“Right, bad night with the girls then? Who’d have kids, huh?”
“Rargh.”

Unfortunately, this is the Jason that my friends see most of the time. They don’t get a chance to see me when I’m at home, playing with my smiling and new-to-giggling offspring. They don’t see me in social circumstances due to the fact that I generally like to get home as early as I can to spend some time with my girls/relieve Amy of them. They don’t see the illogical complexities of parenthood – e.g. 3 hours of screaming is almost entirely negated by 15 minutes of smiles and cutes.

I think I may also be overly sensitive to gushing about my kids. I’ve heard the reactions of people to overly-excitable parents with their fold-out photo folios and extensive and innovative stories about poop. They aren’t generally well received. I may take it too far, but the result is that they don’t get to hear about the best parts of the whole experience. Practical examples of the oft-used “It’s hard, but it’s so worth it” affirmation.

I encourage parents out there to be mindful of how they come across as parents to others. If your peers were to describe you, would they class you as “having a tough time of it”, or “loving it, despite the difficulties”? Rest assured, minuscule readership, that I am in the latter category. It is hard, but it is so worth it. There are times when it all seems too difficult, but those times are rare and separated by the most intense feelings of love and validation that mere words simply cannot describe.

Resemblance

April 20th, 2010 | Posted by Jason Imms in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Here is why my girls remind me of Stan the Used Ship Salesman from the Monkey Island series.

Observation

April 7th, 2010 | Posted by Jason Imms in Uncategorized - (4 Comments)

Being the first to board a soon-to-be crowded bus affords the luxury of being able to choose any seat that my posterior desires. This being the case, you will most likely find me at the far back of the bus, on the right hand side (when facing the front).

It was very dreary end to a fairly dreary day. I knew the bus would be crowded before I even rounded the corner to my stop. Days like this bring all of the would-be walkers flocking to the warm portable shelter of Metro’s finest.
I had recently fallen victim to the previously unwritten social strictures of a crowded bus, so I decided to swap my usual spot under shelter for one right next to the bus stop sign. This way, I would be guaranteed a seat. Standing on the bus is fine, as long as you can find an appropriate handhold. For people of a similar stature to me (leprechauns and the like), the hanging leather straps from the overhead bars don’t provide as much support as they would like to think. If I were to take a firm hold of these leather thongs, I would literally be suspended, my feet above the ground. Suffice it to say, rounding a corner in this position provides frustration for the people around me and in equal parts, humorous entertainment for the rest.

Not this time, I thought to myself. This time, I will sit. And sit I did indeed.

As mentioned above, my commanding position provided me with an unobstructed view of the diverse parade of busgoers below me. As the bus filled each seat was claimed in the same old order that they are claimed every other day. First the window seats are claimed, each owner hoping against hope that the seat next to them is the one seat that doesn’t get filled today. Then the middle seat on the long rear bench is taken. Then each of the remaining seats, the ones whose neighbours are already spoken for are filled in succession leaving standing room only in the aisle.
You’ll notice the odd break from the pattern, those who so desperately want to ensure that they are able to sit alone that they take the aisle seat, leaving the window seat to vacant or perhaps as a spot to keep their bag. Only when the seat pairs around them have filled do they deign to move aside to allow another traveller a chance to park it.

The bus left the stop and began the journey toward my home. As we rounded the first corner the dank smell of wet human set in. You know the smell. Too many damp, jacket-clad people packed into a confined, sealed and heated space. It’s an odd smell in that it seems to breed a contemplative melancholy that leads to this sort of post. The windows soon fogged over removing any distraction from the behaviours of the people around me. Some people attempt to clear their window with their hand, wiping the resulting condensation on their trousers. I choose to allow my already damp pantalones a chance to dry and begin planning this very post.

There seem to be a few stereotypes that busgoers tend to fall into when confronted with a crowded bus situation.

The Shut-in prefers to listen to overloud music rather than face the possibility of having to interact with the people around them. Dark sunglasses provide them an opaque window through which they can observe others without risking eye contact. They may also have a book or a magazine. They aren’t particularly fazed by other passengers sitting next to them, as long as they do not ask them to press the stop button.

The Fearful Romantic is usually one of the first people to board the bus. They tend to take a window seat toward the front of the bus. They sit, hopeful that the seat paired to theirs will be filled by an attractive member of the opposite sex. Maybe they’ll talk to me? Maybe they’ll reach across me to press the stop button, our hands briefly touching. We’ll make eye contact and that brief moment will last for an eternity. A friendly priest will perform an impromptu marriage and I will get off the bus a complete person, my life changed forever.
Ironically, the person in the seat directly next to you is the least likely to make eye contact with you thanks to the previously unwritten Interaction Reduction by Proximity Paradox. As two strangers on a bus move closer together, the chance that they will interact with each other is proportionally reduced.

The Opposed Magnetic Pole will occupy any vacated pair of seats with enough speed to dry your eyes, even post-blink. Their desire to sit alone is so strong that they seem to be propelled from their position next to their previous neighbour like a negatively charged magnetic marble from a positively charged magnetic block.

The Broadcaster is usually surrounded by a group of faithful companions who’s sole purpose is to provide an excuse for The Broadcaster to divulge far too much information to the general populace of the bus under the guise of private conversation. To be ignored with extreme passive prejudice through the use of portable media devices.

The Acquaintances begrudgingly sit together as necessitated by the forced proximity of the bus. As soon as eye contact was made, both parties are resigned to their fate. They prattle on about the day’s purchases, the weather and whatever tenuous common interest they share. Their barely contained longing for the sweet release of their stop is all that keeps them going.

The Rising Star is most likely new to their place of employment. Their valiant effort to continue to work while riding on a crowded bus is stopped short by the simple fact of limited space. It’s difficult to calculate the numbers for Q2 when you are surrounded on all sides by frustrated, damp and exhausted human cattle.

The Gentleman is a rare sight these days. These bastions of all that is good and right in the world are the people that vacate a seat for a lady, an elderly person or someone less able than themselves. They are usually taller than me.

The Forgetful Contemplative is usually found at the back of the bus observing the people around them. They probably forgot their music player, books, magazines or other entertainment device and so are resigned to spending the trip looking for a subject for their next ridiculously long blog post.

Ostentation

February 3rd, 2010 | Posted by Jason Imms in Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

When am I going to learn? Just because a cafe dresses itself up like a boutique espresso joint, doesn’t meant that it is actually deserving of the title.

I wander into [name redacted] this morning. It is situated conveniently directly between my bus stop and my office.
The place is pleasantly decorated and the staff are well dressed and courteous. There is a throng of people ostensibly enjoying their respective coffees while reading the paper, magazines or texting on their new smart-whatchamacallits.

I reach the front of the contextually lengthy queue and step up to the (ordering) plate.
“I’ll have a double ristretto flat white, thanks.”

The young gentleman behind the counter looks at me as though I were speaking Italian.
Well, I guess I was speaking Italian.
Nonetheless!

There was a pause. I bored holes in him with my pretentious coffee snob gaze, perhaps attempting to telepathically provide him with the knowledge he was so obviously lacking.

He shook off his confusion and promptly stabbed at a single button on the register.
“That’ll be $4.00 please.”

I hand over my hard-earned cash, secure in the knowledge that I will be handed a standard flat white any second now.
I stood there and watched as the gentlemen behind the dual-drip portafilter waste a perfectly good shot into his catch tray. I watched as the espresso shot changed from a lovely chocolatey colour, to a sickly off-white affair. I watched as he frothed the milk, lovingly cultivating huge bubbles which he would later hold back with a soup spoon while pouring the superheated remains into the cup. I watched the helpless little espresso shot writhing around as it drowned in a cascade of white-hot death.

I left with my cup of hot disappointment, casting furious looks around the room at the people happily drinking their coffees, their very presence seemingly designed to trap people in their venus flytrap-like maw.

Suffice it to say, if you want good coffee you would do well to remember to stick with trusted friends.

Effervescence

January 15th, 2010 | Posted by Jason Imms in Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

I’m sure anyone who has had children, or has had reason to spend some length of time in a hospital would agree with me when I say that it’s like living in a bubble.

Time in the outside world seems to stop. Everthing that is happening is entirely focused on your new child(ren). All of your normal worries over bills, work, politics, the red threat, global warming and to-do lists seem to disappear as you gaze into the eyes of your new arrival(s) and wonder where the heck they came from.

Well, I mean, you know where they came from – chances are you had a pretty active role in their conception. I’m just saying that all of a sudden, you have these bundles in your arms who rely on you for absolutely everything and they look at you with those, eyes.

Does that make any sense?

As I said in my previous post, the girls have been spending their time in the special care nursary at the Calvary. This means that we get to change them and hold them while they feed through their nasogastric tubes. If we’re really lucky, we might actually get to give them a bath.

As fantastic as the care at Calvary has been, I can’t wait to get my children home so we can work out how to be a family. At the moment it seems that all we’re doing is babysitting our own children.