weekend recap: principles, portals, and other p-words

Some scattered thoughts while I have a few seconds:

1. I picked up The Talos Principle for PS4 a few days ago, as it’s currently on sale for $20.  (Yes, I own it on PC, but my PC is falling apart, and as it happens the PS4 version runs incredibly well.)  That game is pretty good!  Tricky puzzles that give that pleasant euphoric rush once you finally piece it together, all tied together with a very subtle sci-fi / metaphysical narrative.  I think my only real issue with it is one of jarring textural elements – I know there’s a better way to phrase to it, but the words aren’t coming to me at the moment.  Essentially, each puzzle involves you trying to unlock a gate to pick up a puzzle piece; unlocking the gates requires manipulating certain things in the environment.  The disconnect is that the worlds each take place in very specific environments – the first hub world could be Ancient Greece (but with red brick), the second could be Ancient Egypt – but the puzzle elements are strikingly modern (laser-sighted machine gun turrets, light-beams guided by prisms mounted on industrial-grade tripods, etc.  Maybe there’s a narrative reason for this?  I’m about as far into the PS4 version as I was on the PC – maybe a little further along, actually, since I’m using a walkthrough when I get truly stuck (which is happening a bit more than I’d like).

2. So among the Xbox 360 games recently announced by Microsoft as now being backwards-compatible is Portal: Still Alive, a stand-alone digital-download version that came out maybe a year or so after The Orange Box was released.  Of course I bought it, even though I’d already beaten Portal a dozen times on both 360 and PC, and of course I immediately downloaded it for my Xbox One, because come on.  Portal is one of the best games ever made.  I mention this only because this past Saturday night my living room TV happened to be free, and my PS3 is hooked up to it as our blu-ray player, and I decided to give Portal 2 a whirl, as I hadn’t played it in a long time.  You know what?  Portal 2 is a perfect game.  I appreciate the argument that the first Portal might be a better game if only because it was so completely unexpected and that the narrative twist was (as my friend Greg put it) that it had a narrative in the first place.  Portal 2, though, is bigger and funnier, and the puzzles are just as inventive, and Cave motherfucking Johnson, and Glados is a potato, and Stephen Merchant as Wheatley is, bar none, my favorite voice performance in any game I’ve ever played.  My save game put me in place to finish the final third, and now that I’ve experienced the ending again I can certainly see why a Portal 3 might be difficult to pull off (from a narrative standpoint, at any rate), but that doesn’t stop me from wanting more Portal in my life.

3. Harmonix has announced a U2 DLC bundle for Rock Band 4, which means I have to now buy Rock Band 4.  It’s only 8 songs, and not the 40-song bundle that I’d hoped for many years ago, but it’ll do.

4. Still haven’t started my Games of the Year post; still not sure when I’m going to get to it, or if I’ll even be able to fill out a top 10.

5.  I’m actually more interested in working on a Music of the Year post, even though I haven’t written one in years, and even though I don’t really listen on an album-by-album basis.  My music consumption process has changed so radically in the last few years that it’s barely recognizable to me; the me that posted ridiculous lists on LiveJournal would be hard-pressed to wonder what the hell has happened to me.  It’s something I’m very much wanting to explore, at any rate, so… look forward to that, eventually.

U2 Rock Band Setlist Guesses

Cheap traffic-generating stunt, or legitimate blog post? You decide. In any event, it looks like Bono reads SFTC because I fucking called this 2 weeks ago. Via Kotaku:

With the music business falling apart, musicians are hoping to get their cut of the music game pie — even The Beatles have their own Rock Band title! Now, it looks like Irish rockers U2 want in, too.U2 hasn’t lent their likeness to games, and from what bassist Adam Clayton tells USA Today, it sounds like the group has turned down offers. Here’s Clayton on the odds of U2 in a music game:

We definitely would like to be in there, but we felt some of the compromises weren’t what we wanted. That could change. I love the idea that that’s where people are getting music, and we’d love to be in that world. We’ll figure something out. What The Beatles have done, where the animation is much more representative of them, is what we’re interested in, rather than the one-size-fits-all animation. We didn’t want to be caricatured.

So, then. A U2 Rock Band game, inspired by the Beatles mold. DELICIOUS. This is totally doable. Over a dozen solid albums, numerous hit singles, distinct sonic eras, legendary visual designs, 4 distinct personalities, and challenging instrument tracks. The only thing missing is an intimidating mythology, but even the Beatles Rock Band game didn’t really delve into all the squabbling, so there’s no real story that needs to be told aside from the political/social eras that U2 inserted themselves into. (Rattle and Hum wasn’t necessarily a narrative masterpiece, either.)

And if we’re going to follow the Beatles mold, then it stands to reason that 40 songs is a nice round number to work with, giving each album its moment in the sun and getting a bit deeper into the catalog beyond the singles. I’m going to err on the side of caution and assume that the game would concentrate on album tracks and not obscure B-sides; one notable exception could be the live version of “Bad” from the Wide Awake In America EP, which is one of my personal favorites; the version of “Sweetest Thing” that appeared on the Best Of compilation might also be up for consideration.

So, then, here’s my best guess for a setlist for a game that does not yet actually exist. And let it be known that I’m intentionally omitting some of my favorites – “All I Want Is You,” “Ultraviolet,” “Tryin’ To Throw Your Arms Around The World,” “Acrobat,” “Daddy’s Going to Pay For Your Crashed Car”, etc. – because, well, you can’t throw ’em all in. Along those lines, I’m throwing in a few songs from Pop because, well, every album’s gotta be represented. (Can I also admit that I haven’t listened to the new album, even though I’ve owned it for months?)

Boy

  1. I Will Follow
  2. Out of Control
  3. Electric Co.

October

  1. Gloria
  2. I Fall Down

War

  1. Sunday Bloody Sunday
  2. Seconds
  3. New Year’s Day
  4. Two Hearts Beat As One
  5. 40

Under A Blood Red Sky

  1. Party Girl
  2. 11 O’Clock Tick Tock

Unforgettable Fire

  1. A Sort of Homecoming
  2. Pride (In the Name of Love)
  3. Bad

Joshua Tree

  1. Where the Streets Have No Name
  2. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
  3. With Or Without You
  4. In God’s Country

Rattle And Hum

  1. Desire
  2. Angel of Harlem
  3. Bullet the Blue Sky (live)

Achtung Baby

  1. One
  2. Until The End of the World
  3. The Fly
  4. Mysterious Ways

Zooropa

  1. Zooropa
  2. Numb
  3. Lemon

Pop

  1. Discothèque
  2. Staring At The Sun

All That You Can’t Leave Behind

  1. Beautiful Day
  2. Elevation
  3. Walk On

How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb

  1. Vertigo
  2. City of Blinding Lights
  3. All Because of You

No Line on the Horizon

  1. No Line on the Horizon
  2. I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight
  3. Get On Your Boots