like spinning plates

I’m very scatterbrained this afternoon, so rather than trying to focus on one topic, I’m just going to move around as I see fit.

1.  In my last post I said I was glad that I didn’t have to review Beyond: Two Souls.  But as it turns out, I ended up finishing it on Wednesday, and now I’m reviewing it for the NYVCC, and so I’m hoping to get that turned in by early next week.  I’ll save my larger analysis for the review proper, but the key phrase in this paragraph is that I finished the game, which is more than I can say for Heavy Rain or Indigo Prophecy.  It’s easy to see why it’s divisive, and even though I liked it I can’t necessarily defend it.  I appreciate its ambition, even if I’m a little turned off by its pretentiousness.

2.  I meant to sit down and play a bit more Shadow Warrior last night, but I ended up getting sucked back into The Stanley Parable for around 3 hours.  I played the original mod and liked it very much; this new, “official” version is a spectacular remake.  As I did with the original version, my first playthrough was spent following all the narrator’s instructions, and then each subsequent playthrough was spent picking various spots to make detours, while keeping tabs on other spots to try next time.  It’s very funny and witty and smart, and it can be more than a little unnerving to see how the narrator is following along with your thought process as you attempt to break the game; and at times the game is genuinely, sincerely beautiful; and there’s one path in particular (the one where you answer the phone and get taken to your apartment) that hit me right square in the face.  I took a bunch of screenshots during my time with it last night, but I’m sorta reluctant to share them here, as they might be spoilery (even if they wouldn’t make much sense without the proper context).  So I’ll split the difference – if you want to see them, here’s the link to my Steam profile.

3.  All my love for The Stanley Parable should not indicate that I intend to neglect Shadow Warrior, though.  I finished the first chapter on Wednesday (as a palate cleanser after finishing Beyond) and it is fan-fucking-tastic.  Two quick observations:

  • I’ve played most of my games this year on the PC, but Shadow Warrior is the first time in years that I’ve played a first-person shooter with a mouse and keyboard, and it’s making me very nostalgic for my Quake 2 years.
  • The whole thing is very nostalgic and old school – lots of secret areas, incredibly fast action, a very goofy sense of humor (the game was co-written by my buddy Scott Alexander), and lots and lots of blood and gore.

I highly recommend it if you’re in the mood for this sort of thing; I didn’t realize that old-school shooters were an itch that needed scratching until I booted the game up, and I got hooked almost immediately.

4.  Meanwhile, my obsession with all things Picross has now found a home on iOS, thanks to Paint It Back.  It’s perhaps not as elegant to control as with a DS/3DS, but it gets the job done, and the puzzles are not without a certain sense of humor.  I’ve also found myself getting sucked into Angry Birds: Star Wars 2, which had been sitting on my phone untouched for no good reason.  Other recent iOS pickups worth mentioning are the gorgeous Type:Rider, a gorgeous platforming game that also teaches you about the history of typography; Pocket Titans, which is a hard-to-describe puzzle/combat hybrid that I’m still getting the hang of; and I also continue to be kinda disappointed by, but also compelled to stick with, Marvel Puzzle Quest.

5.  I’m also kinda getting into GTA V Online, though I’m still hesitant to really dive in full-bore.  I guess I kinda miss co-op stuff, like the gang hideouts in Red Dead.  Sure it’d be great to do heists, though I suspect they’ll add those in at a later date; but I’d be really disappointed if they are simply locking co-op missions for higher ranks.   The whole point of an online GTA, for me, is to explore the world and to do things with friends together; if I just wanted team deathmatch I’d go and play Call of Duty.

What are you playing this weekend?

“the texture of the search itself”

“It’s all right,” dialogue boxes assure her, “it’s part of the experience, part of getting constructively lost.”
Before long, Maxine finds herself wandering around clicking on everything, faces, litter on the floor, labels on bottles behind the bar, after a while interested not so much in where she might get to than the texture of the search itself.
– Thomas Pynchon, “Bleeding Edge”

I’m 8 chapters into the new Pynchon book, and I am continually amazed at how such an famously reclusive author who is also, at this point, an old man, can still get it when it comes to popular culture.  The quote I pulled above describes a Second Life-esque game experience (the book takes place in 2001, 2 years before Second Life was officially released), but that phrase at the end – “the texture of the search itself” – is the thing that’s hitting me square in the solar plexus.  It’s precisely that feeling of pure exploration for exploration’s sake that makes games like Journey feel so utterly transcendent – or, likewise, of simply wandering around in Skyrim (or other Bethesda RPGs) and seeing what pops up along the way.

And it’s also very much why I’m still playing GTA V, despite my weariness of the game’s many faults; for as much as the game’s narrative can fly off the rails, and the characters are simply poorly motivated (when they’re not being actively repulsive), the world is so incredibly detailed that I tend to tune the other stuff out.  Kotaku’s been featuring some videos that highlight just how subtle some of these details really are (this one in particular is pretty amazing); my personal favorite thing that I’ve seen is how, after a head-on collision with an oncoming car, the driver of the other car will silently, but with great anger, flip you the bird.

Rockstar’s Social Club says that I’m 65% complete.  I’ve finished 59 of the game’s 69 missions, plus a few miscellaneous activities here and there.  I’m definitely in the home stretch, as it were; there’s “one last job” to pull off, though we haven’t started planning it yet.  The point I’m slow in getting to is that I’m probably not going to write any more about it until I’ve finished the main story, so that I can then try to put the whole thing together.

Other things that I’m hoping to write about this week include:

  • Beyond: Two Souls, which will probably arrive on Thursday or so from Gamefly;
  • Marvel Puzzle Quest, which came out on iOS last week and which I’m pretty disappointed with;
  • Cookie Clicker, which is currently running on my browser at home (I’m generating 4.5 billion cookies per second);
  • Picross titles that I just discovered are in the 3DS eshop (sadly, they are only 2D puzzles, which are not nearly as interesting or as fun to solve as Picross 3D (on the 2DS), but it’s still Picross, so…); and
  • Minerva’s Den, which I got for free when 2K upgraded everybody’s copy during the switch from GFWL to Steam.  I’d originally played Bioshock 2 on the 360 and was summarily disappointed by it, and so I’d sent it back before Minerva’s Den was released; I then picked up Bioshock 2 on the PC during a sale but couldn’t access Minerva’s Den, for some reason; now I have it, and it’s something I’ve always wanted to try, being that I’ve heard such amazing things about it.  I actually gave it a quick spin over the weekend and realized that I’d forgotten how to play the original Bioshock – and while the PC version offers controller support, they never re-wrote the in-game button prompts to tell you how to do things with the controller, so it might be a little while before I get the hang of it.
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