Pointless Nonsense

Posted in video games by Bill on July 25, 2017

INSIDE is from the same studio that made LIMO, a very clever minimalist indie platformer which was apparently a big success. This one is bigger and with more bells and whistles (like color and 3D, the previous game looked like you were seeing the shadow of a three dimensional game, but this one is really 3D). It’s the same basic concept though, the four arrows and a button to grab things and that’s it. Your objective is just to move through the world, but the obstacles become increasingly complicated.

This one has a bit of a story to it. Initially, you’re running through the woods at night. There are people in the background, some in cars, some have flashlights. If they spot you with their lights, they’ll try to shoot you or sick dogs on you. Who are they and why do they want to kill you? Towards the end, it gets weird. And since there’s no text or voiceover, what in the hell happened is somewhat ambiguous.

But the puzzles are very good. For a sidescroller with exactly five buttons (up, down, left, right, and grab), the puzzles can get pretty elaborate. Very fun game and well worth playing if you like puzzles, and don’t mind grisly deaths when you mess up.

Posted in tv by Bill on July 25, 2017

Ozark is Netflix’s new series with Jason Bateman and Laura Linney. It’s kinda in the same vein as Weeds and early Breaking Bad, where seemingly wholesome suburban boring white people get involved in high stakes crime. And in this case end up in a shithole town in Missouri (it’s kinda nice that this show that features a lot of white trash is not set in the South). It’s not a comedy, despite having Jason Bateman.

As a fan of crime stories, I was intrigued enough to make it through the whole season, but I can’t say I recommend it. The white guy anti-hero drama thing is starting to get tired, I’d hoped Laura Linney’s character would pain out into something more interesting, but really didn’t, and it seems to drift into marriage/betrayal territory and away from the crime stuff more than I’d like.

Posted in tv by Bill on July 21, 2017

Friends from College is Netflix’s new dramedy (I think?) series with Keegan Michael Key, Cobie Smulders, Fred Savage, the shortest tenured L&O ADA, Nat Faxon, Ned’s friend from Ned and Stacey, and Billy Eichner but not being shouty which is a first for me. I like the cast a lot, so I gave it a second episode, but I think this is one of those “adult” comedies, where we’re grown up so we’re too mature to be funny anymore.

Posted in tv by Bill on July 14, 2017

Salvation is a CBS summer series where an asteroid is heading for Earth that has the potential to destroy all life on the planet. An astrophysics grad student (some nobody), a DoD PR person (the wife on that FX show Tyrant), and Any Resemblance to Elon Musk is Purely Coincidental (the hispanic guy from that UK Musketeers show) team up to… save the world or something. It’s iffy on the dialogue and acting, but it’s a slightly-scifi government conspiracy type story, and I do dig those, and there’s not a lot else on, so like Under the Dome before it, I’ll probably see how I like it for a season. If the plot moves briskly, it might be an ok thing to watch for the summer.

Posted in video games by Bill on July 13, 2017

Superhot came in a Humble Bundle and it’s awesome. I’d seen a demo video of this a long time ago and I thought it looked clever, but it’s really a lot of fun. It’s a first person shooter where time only movies when you move. That gives you time to plan out your actions precisely, and you end up with action movie type superpowers. Two guys are running at you with guns and you’re unarmed? Punch the first one in the face, his gun goes flying so you grab it out of the air, dodge a bullet from the second guy and headshot him. And this is neither an incredibly complicated set of controls nor one of those things where it’s like “tap A to do this scripted thing that looks badass but all you did was tap A.” You’re really in control and the slow motion mechanic gives you time to plan out the sequence of moves to get you out of an impossible action movie situation.

The graphics are minimalist, but it works well for the game. Black and white except the enemies and bullet trails are red. There’s a plot built into it, but… meh. Who cares though, it’s all about navigating these scenarios and killing all the red guys.

It’s short, a few hours for the campaign type thing, though there are other modes to play in. But really quite fun. It’s the most innovative shooter I’ve played in years.

Posted in video games by Bill on July 11, 2017

The new Rocket League competitive season kicked off, so I lost basically a week to that (and I’ve somehow recently gotten a lot better at the game), but now that I hit what I’m pretty sure is my peak ranking, back to bundle/summer sale games I’ve stockpiled. First up is Plague Inc: Evolved which from what I’d seen looked like a fancy version of Pandemic II, the flash game where you spread a virus all over the world except to Madagascar. And that’s basically what it is. Fun enough, but not exactly a deep or rich gaming experience, wouldn’t pay more than a few bucks for it non-bundled. Since it’s currently listed at $15.99 on Steam, I’d avoid the hell out of that until it’s on sale.

Posted in movies by Bill on July 11, 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming is the best Spider-Man movie to date. I never liked Tobey Maguire, and while Andrew Garfield was fine, the movies themselves weren’t all that good. Tom Holland is a better match for the character than either. He’s believably unpopular at school, genuinely funny and awkward, and manages to pull off at least one scene that could have been really corny with some other actor.

Knowing RDJ’s Tony Stark would be involved, I’d worried his presence would overshadow the title character, but it really didn’t. This is definitely a Spider-Man movie. It spends almost as much time on high school as it does on superheroics. Most of the notable high school characters that I know from comics and cartoons make an appearance (including someone who’s not Miles Morales’ friend Ganke, but basically is).

Implied spoiler: there’s a plot development in the movie that I might have seen coming if I didn’t assume certain things matched the comics, so foreknowledge in this case helped lead to a nice surprise. And there were some things I missed because I don’t know Spider-Man as well as some other characters (although I also missed a thing about Donald Glover’s character that I definitely should have picked up on, but I’m bad with character names).

Posted in tv by Bill on July 7, 2017

Castlevania is Netflix’s new animated adaptation of the video game series that I never played, written by Warren Ellis (hence my interest, he’d been talking about it (in codenames) in his newslestter since early 2016). I literally had no idea what the story behind Castlevania was beyond a vague sense of “vampires,” so I went into this completely dark.

The visual style is very anime-ish, which is not really my thing in general, but it’s actually not so bad here. And having the dialogue and voice acting be original to English means a vocal style that is much more pleasing to my ear. I was originally going to complain that the pilot didn’t do a good job introducing the series; it’s almost entirely dedicated to the villain. But it turns out the first season is only four episodes long, so instead I’ll complain that this should have been an original movie instead. It runs a little under 100 minutes all together, that’s perfect movie length!

Otherwise, it’s pretty good.  Some classic Warren Ellis stuff in there (crude jokes, drunken protagonist). The short length is a bit annoying in that it just gets to where the series comes together when it ends, and it’ll probably be quite a while before season 2. And I’ll have forgotten all the stuff that happened. But that’s now Netflix goes.

Posted in video games by Bill on July 7, 2017

Offworld Trading Company is an economic game centered around resource extraction and processing on Mars. You control a corporation on the red planet and on an RTS-like map, you deploy mines, solar panels, and other stuff, then buy and sell the things you make on a market. Prices rise and fall based on supply and demand among all corporations on the map, so if your opponent has tons of iron and sells it all to the market, you can then buy it for cheap. Or more profitably, if you have tons of iron, you can sabotage your opponents’ iron mines to drive up the price and sell your stockpile for a bunch. You win the game by buying out the other corporations.

There’s an interesting campaign mode in which you all start with crippled corps, then play several games without the stock buyout mechanism, instead trying to build up colonies to get metagame income, and that income allows you to purchase upgrades to un-cripple yourself, until the last game with all the upgrades you’ve bought is a regular game where you try to buy your opponents out.

It’s kinda fun for a while, and for like $7 on sale I was happy to get 22 hours out of it, doing the tutorial, a few standalone games, and then a campaign. I’m not interested enough to try to get good at it though.

Posted in tv by Bill on July 7, 2017

Snowfall is FX’s new series about the birth of the crack epidemic in the 80s, using dealers, traffickers, and CIA guys as main characters to show different sides of it. It didn’t immediately grab me, but it wasn’t bad either, so I’m going to try a few more episodes to see where it goes.

The pilot seemed as much interested in being edgy with random sex stuff (including one pretty gross moment that reminded me this is the network that brought us Nip/Tuck), and though I do generally enjoy random sex stuff, here it’s a little bit… syrup with no pancakes. Game of Thrones uses that stuff to make sure it’s never boring. Throw two people boning at the beginning of a scene that has an exposition dump. Here, it’s not like there was a huge amount of plot to get through, so it felt more like “please watch our show, it will have simulated oral sex!”

It does the period soundtrack well. It’s easy to fall in the trap of going “it’s 1983, let’s play the top hits of 1983!” because of course in 1983 plenty of people were still listening to music from the 60s and 70s and earlier in the 80s. It also tends away from the obvious 80s stuff.