Useless Blogging

August 24, 2009

Indie Game Review

Filed under: Games,Reviews — steegness @ 12:10 am

Thanks to the magic that is Steam, a couple of weeks ago I downloaded ten “indie” games for a song. I’ve since played at least a little of all ten, and feel the need to share my thoughts.

  • Audio Surf: A very fun game not unlike Guitar Hero meets Tetris in that music plays and you collect gems (Guitar Hero) and collecting them into groups makes them disappear (Tetris). The magic is that it takes YOUR music and does this; using MP3 files on your computer, it generates a path for the game to take, and it’s smart enough to know what’s fast, what’s slow, when the cool parts of songs are, etc. Well executed and fun to watch. I don’t mind getting a couple of songs in before bed with this one.
  • Blueberry Garden: The first of a couple “exploration” games on the list. For the record, I’ve come to determine that I hate games like this. Games that encourage exploration are fun. Games where that’s all you have to go on are not. Games are meant to have goals (which Blueberry Garden DOES have, I’m told), and more importantly, feedback to assist in achieving those goals. Wandering trying to figure out what to do next loses its appeal quickly. The game looks nice, at least.
  • Braid: Possibly worth the price of the whole set. This is a 2D platformer that’s familiar enough to be accessible but rewrites SO many of the notions central to the genre that it’s totally mindbending. Messing with time is a blast, and there are no wasted levels. If you can follow the narrative, it’s a total mindscrew as well, with a brilliant ending. Visually stunning, haunting score (which is made more haunting with its reversal when time is messed with), and great gameplay make this top of the indie heap.
  • Crayon Physics Deluxe: The first of two physics-based games on the list. Very well done graphically, and its puzzles offer numerous solutions. So many ways to complete the tasks leave it open for a lot of creativity, but it also means that you can likely blow through the levels (there are over 70) in a shorter order than you’d think. It DOES have replay value, but if you’re the type of person who likes getting to the end and stopping there, it stands to be a little short, as there’s not a WHOLE lot of incentive to go back and do things new ways.
  • Darwinia: Somewhere in the real-time strategy realm lives Darwinia, but I don’t know its exact address. I’ll say that it seems fun save for the control scheme (both units and camera) being too dodgy for my liking.
  • Everyday Shooter: An Asteroids-style game with a few minor tweaks, the most major of which is the soundtrack. Fun enough for a while.
  • Gish: A 2D platformer, except you’re a ball of tar. That’s a bit of an undersell, because the game’s really fun. It turns out that making your hero a ball of tar leads to some new game mechanics that can add a smidge of real world physics into an otherwise fantasy world.
  • Mr. Robot: An isometric 3D … strategy? RPG? … game that casts you as a robot taking care of things while the humans are in cryosleep. Thus far I’ve had good times playing it, but a less than stellar control scheme is getting in my way too much; the game at times requires fast and precise actions, and I’ve yet to feel like I can pull that off consistently. Don’t let that stop you from trying it out.
  • The Path: Really, this whole post is an excuse for me to write about The Path. This game is atrocious. Remember all that stuff I said about Blueberry Garden, and how exploration games weren’t my thing? For starters, The Path is an exploration game. There’s no map, no real dialogue, no point in anything you’re doing (at least, no point that’s revealed to you while you’re still interested in what you just did). Just looking around, doing unrelated things, until one of two things happens: you decide to turn the game off, or you decide to finally go to the house that you were told to go to at the start of the game. (If you go to this house, without veering from the path, as the onscreen instructions indicate you ought to do, you get to the end and fail. FAIL.) The website is full of people going “you just don’t get it”; I get it, all to well. I don’t think the designers do. This isn’t a game; it does not occupy the same mental space as anything rightfully called a “game”. It’s more akin to what it pretends to be portraying: a walk in the woods, only in the real woods there’s more to explore and the narrative has more clarity.
  • World of Goo: The other physics-based game, this one is based around construction using goo balls that can form lattice-type work to create wobbly masterpieces. The story is actually a good one, if you’re up to following it, and the puzzles range from easy to “Wow, people think this stuff up and still expect to get into Heaven?” Visually, it’s pretty awesome, second only to Braid on this list, I think. Fun factor is very high.

December 28, 2008

Getting a band together

Filed under: Family,Games,Reviews — steegness @ 2:37 am

So I picked up Guitar Hero: World Tour today (using Christmas funds), and I’ve got so say: good times.

Short thoughts from night one:
– The fact that Sara and I could play together was AWESOME.
– Six drum hits (five pads/one pedal) is AWESOME.
– The fact that I now have two guitars (so I can finally work co-op on GH3) and two microphones (so the kids can duet on their new Disney Sing It) is AWESOME.
Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer” is TOTALLY AWESOME. That song was practically MADE for a Guitar Hero game.

February 1, 2008

I wish I liked Radiohead more

Filed under: Rants,Reviews,Thoughts — steegness @ 2:21 pm

Radiohead makes good music that I’d enjoy if I were trying to sleep, or maybe if I were tripping on mescaline or peyote or something. The lyrics are vague yet meaningful, and the music itself is unlike most everything I’ve heard. Trouble is, there’s rarely a hook, and as nice as Radiohead is to listen to while feeling introspective, it’s sucks for everyday use.

That is all.

June 21, 2007

Productivity501 Updates To WordPress

Filed under: Reviews — steegness @ 7:23 am

I wrote about P501 before, in a review of their services in an attempt for an iPod Shuffle (because I’m a cold materialistic bastard in addition to being a consumer of productivity blogs). I don’t think I’ll ever win, as the target number of reviews was 150, and to date, there are 18. 😛

Today they earn another mention because it looks like they moved off of TypePad and on to WordPress. I was tipped off by virtue of the new install pinging every trackback during import (hence the new comment on the post that’s three months old).

The main reason for the re-mention is that one of my bigger complaints with the site was that its layout and archive system both left much to be desired, owing (primarily) to the TypePad platform on which the site was hosted. Moving to WordPress solved those issues in a hurry, and the site is much more visitor-friendly now. Now you can actually explore and such. Huzzah.

March 2, 2007

Productivity501 Review

Filed under: Reviews — steegness @ 1:58 pm

Disclaimer: My primary motivation for writing this post is the ipod they’re offering for reviews (in contest form). That said however, expect honesty, even if you’d not normally expect a review of a website in this space.

Productive Strategies initially crawled across my feedreader as a link from another site I visit for little tips for life. Honestly, which one with was fails me (though it was likely LifeHacker), but a visit proved it worthy for further monitoring.

The post with which I fell in love was this one, detailing a number of free academic lecture podcasts. I dig free things that make me smarter. Since then, the feed has been swimming into my reading net as often as the hits roll in (which, for the interested, is anywhere from once every two weeks to once every day; it’s gone in fits and spurts). While I’d like a little more consistency in the pacing, the main thing the posts have going for them is the fact that they’re (primarily) original content. I qualify that due to fact that most entries come with bibliographical-style references following them, indicating a measure of inspiration from other sources. Still, it helps it stand apart a little better from more well-known sites like LifeHacker, which often cribs nearly word for word from other sites that I already have in my feedreader — including this one.

Then there are the things that don’t necessarily apply to my life in any form whatsoever, but make for good reading. A fine example is this personal anecdote set of tips related to working from a suitcase. For me, never really going to happen, but even without the direct connection, it’s easy to draw out something useful: namely, boiling down what you need to be productive to the bare essentials, especially if you’re on the go.

Most gripes I have with the site are technical in nature. Without categories or tags, finding something specific becomes a burden. Without ‘next’ or ‘last’ links at the bottom of the page, moving chronologically is an exercise in moving through months via the archive links. And no offense to Mark Shead (the site’s author), but his picture just staring out at me on every page — with no link or explanation that he’s the author and I should care about his picture being there — is just creepy.

I’d like to know more about how the 501 sites are intertwined (if they are indeed), I’d like better navigation/discovery tools, and I’d like something that looked less… bleh. But I can’t fault the information provided. It’s presented cleanly and with a minimum of distractions (though that clock image next to the Google ads on the individual post pages comes dangerously close to violating AdSense terms). It will probably never top LifeHacker in my eyes, but the work is pretty quality.

Muffins, as muffins approach perfection

Filed under: Reviews — steegness @ 10:28 am

Cinnabon Cinnamon Streusel Muffins. I could really stop there with the glowing review, but allow me one further comment.

TOTALLY AWESOMMMMMmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…………