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Everything posted by Simon

  1. The Book of Dust

    Philip Pullman has at last announced The Book of Dust, which turns out to be a full trilogy running alongside His Dark Materials - volume 1 will be published on October 19th. A very welcome surprise. More details from The Guardian and NPR. This news is quite timely for me, as I've just embarked on a re-reading of His Dark Materials (including the little companion books Once Upon A Time In The North and Lyra's Oxford for the first time). I loved the trilogy as a youngster, reading them as they came out.
  2. The Book of Dust

    I've read the first half of this and it's great so far.
 I think Pullman's tilted version of our world - not just its alternative history and language like ‘anbaric’ rather than ‘electric’, but the social and political setup being an echo of our own too - has rarely been stronger or sharper. The most insidious, unpleasant elements of that (public libraries have been done away with, there’s a network of child spies funded by the state and couched in religious rhetoric) obviously have their deliberate parallels but feel tightly wound around the plot in a way that they perhaps weren't in The Amber Spyglass. So far it doesn't seem to require a thorough recall of everything that happened in His Dark Materials, although obviously it will help if you know who Lord Asriel and Lyra are.
  3. Modest Tech: The NX Generation (Nintendo Switch)

    Stuck to my plan and ordered a Switch in the run-up to Mario - I'm getting the Odyssey bundle with the red joy-cons. There are plenty of indie games I'm keen to play that are either out or imminent now...I'm pretty excited to be joining the Switch club. I hope Bethesda's ports do well - I'm very likely to get Skyrim, L.A. Noire, and Doom in due course, having never had a powerful PC or a console to play those one when they were first released, but I wonder if there are enough people like me. I suppose they're banking on fans of those games wanting them as a portable thing. With Wolfenstein following fairly close behind the other platforms, I wonder if it's possible that the next Elder Scrolls chapter will get a simultaneous Switch release.
  4. Twin Peaks Rewatch endorsement I've been enjoying it alongside my first time through the series over the past month or so, and to be honest it has helped me stick with the very patchy second season. I've got just two episodes and FWWM to go now so I'm sure I'll make it now - thanks Jake and Chris! Looking forward to your coverage of the new episodes. I'm in genuine suspense over whether they'll reconstruct the opening credits montage in the wider aspect ratio.
  5. Full Throttle Remastered

    I watched The Wild One yesterday. I was vaguely aware it had some influence on Tim and Full Throttle, but it's so obvious when you compare their intros that it made me smile. The film starts with a shot of an empty stretch of road and Brando's voice wistfully remembering about a girl. The film itself is just okay - probably remembered more because of Brando in leathers and a few special lines than its overall quality. It's also sometimes held as a possible source for The Beatles' band name (the girls in Lee Marvin's gang are referred to as 'the Beetles').
  6. Full Throttle Remastered

    Yes, those criticisms all seem fair enough. The minigames were controversial at the time and can't have aged well. As for the puzzling, I do admire how it limits itself to being very in-character in this game - almost everything you do makes sense as something Ben would intuit, either using his brute force or mechanical know-how - that doesn't necessarily mean it's always intuitive to the player, and conversely it can make for some dull/obvious solutions, but it's an interesting change from other adventure games. Often those have solutions that are fun stretches of logic, but beyond anything the character is likely to think of under their own agency. As far as I remember, Full Throttle has little or no object combination, just a couple of dialogue puzzles like at the Vultures hideout (Ben is pretty laconic), and very little back and forth between locations to progress (he's not that patient either). Thimbleweed Park was sort of the opposite - you're constantly doing things that rely on information the characters couldn't possibly have, but that becomes part of the fun.
  7. Full Throttle Remastered

    I'm curious! I'm not playing the remaster but am pretty familiar with the game. What didn't you like? I can try to put nostalgia aside (first game I bought with my own money!) and admit this is a little uneven and not among LucasArts' very best - I wish more of the game was like Melonweed, where it briefly opens up a bit, and has a couple of strong puzzles. But I do enjoy the characters (perfect dialogue and voice acting) and the overall cinematic feel - I'm sad when it's over so soon.
  8. Recently completed video games

    @Trip Hazard Tomb Raider was one of those games where I felt oddly compelled to play through the whole thing quite quickly (see earlier post here), without ever feeling very fond of it - the writing was dull, the gritty aesthetic was not to my taste at all, and half of the gameplay mechanics were pointless padding. Somehow it held my attention, perhaps because I did quite enjoy the combat (and there's a lot of it, now that Crystal Dynamics have decided Tomb Raider is predominantly a shooter), and also I expected it to eventually have more expansive, interesting tombs to explore. Turns out those two elements are mutually exclusive - on reflection I probably won't bother with the sequel(s). Conversely, some games that get everything right for me take me ages to complete - e.g. Alien: Isolation. I adore almost every aspect of that game but I still haven't got around to finishing it!
  9. I've just completed the game. Thought it was all excellent, and there's a lot of's been a long time since I played a new adventure game that had anywhere near this much in it. I was very stuck on two occasions, both proper puzzle bottlenecks, but they were totally fair once the solutions presented themselves (one was the search for the nickel @mikemariano mentioned), so I was really glad I persevered and didn't phone the hint line. Nothing quite like cracking open a new stretch of an adventure game. I do have a few misgivings. As much as the game goes out of its way to spell out each character's goals by giving everyone a 'to do' list, that actually causes more confusion when you get stuck elsewhere and keep trying to progress one particular puzzle thread, because there's little sense of what's possible in the short term. For a long time I was I also think the chapter divisions are a bit arbitrary, with too many puzzles spanning them for them to mean much. Visuals were fantastic, they just missed a few tricks like not sticking to the classic resolution in every respect - the characters actually scale flawlessly as they move further away, so in a scene like this you have their tiny high-res pixels amongst the faithful big pixels of the background and interface: I wanted them to go all blocky as they walked away! This was the only thing that didn't feel right. I loved how it looked and moved in every other way, really atmospheric background work and plenty of special animations. I don't find Ransome that funny, but generally the humour raised a smile. I hope they make another game soon! One question, for anyone else who finished it:
  10. Okay, I've now played part of the game as Obviously the vast majority of people who play this will be very familiar with Monkey Island etc., but too many of those jokes and you start to alienate anyone who comes to it as an adventure game neophyte. Plus, well-earned character humour is always going to be funnier than references, even for those of who do get them. I'm not sure it's quite every other joke though - wandering the town and questioning the locals as Agent Ray, the game doesn't seem to lean into it so strongly. I'm finding the puzzle design satisfying - it's fair and adventure-game-logical, without being a total breeze. So far the game feels slightly adrift from any plot, more like a series of short games. But I'm still very early in the game, and this is perhaps an inevitable side effect of introducing the playable cast one by one.
  11. The only fourth wall breaking I've encountered so far was on the second screen, in the first proper dialogue tree, but I can let that slide because it could have been intended as gentle tutorialising (about adventure game dead ends and whether I needed to save etc.). It did yank me out of a nicely atmospheric intro, though. I'm hoping it won't have too many in-jokes of that sort later on - I've played plenty of adventure games that use that stuff as a crutch, or even their main source of humour. So far I really like it! I have selected retro sentence bar and speech fonts, but modern verbs.
  12. Full Throttle Remastered

    Thanks @Jake and @tabacco, joined! I wondered why Steve's blogs had gone a bit quiet and didn't know about this - it's great. Time really flies...unless I've missed something, Jake's episode of The Devil's Playhouse was the last Sam & Max story thus far and that was 2010.
  13. Full Throttle Remastered

    In this new GOG interview (which begins with its host playing along to the Gone Jackals 'Legacy' on a keytar), Tim does seem open to updating other LEC titles if he can get enough of the original teams involved in each case. For reasons I went into above, Sam & Max is the only one left that isn't fraught with the problem of over-interpretation. I agree with @syntheticgerbil that DoTT Remastered was spot-on (down to thoughtful detail like how you could mix the interface - I played it with new graphics/old interface on iPad), in a way that Full Throttle is not quite looking, but it does does give me hope that Sam & Max would work. (Side note: I miss them. Really wish Steve was able to put out a new comic every now and then.)
  14. I still tend to buy CDs - they sound great and can be ripped to anything. Paying a similar price for the mp3 files never made sense to me. I obviously have no problem owning games digitally, but that's essentially the same experience once you're playing. I can't kick the physical habit when it comes to music and books. Also, some of the very best reissue labels can't make their releases available digitally, and collecting their stuff is important to me. They often have excellent booklets I wouldn't want to miss out on anyway. So there's an assumption that a physical collection can be entirely supplanted by an iTunes collection or a streaming service, but that's not the case. It's similar with film - the fraction of older films available digitally is tiny, before you even consider that a good physical release might come with director's commentary, documentaries, a really good new essay etc. I don't think physical music or film is genuinely obsolete whilst they remain the collectors' choice in these ways. Streaming is useful (I have a Google Play Music subscription) but I treat it like a library rather than my collection. If I really love a book or album, I'll probably eventually buy myself a copy to keep. Vinyl is nice and I collect it from time to time, but the pricing is bonkers now that it's a more fashionable item.
  15. Full Throttle Remastered

    I can't picture a faithful remaster of The Secret of Monkey Island or Loom in the same sense as DoTT or Full Throttle. There's a different visual language to the earlier games, whereas once the games started to resemble cartoon animation (like the latter two, and Sam & Max), you can see the technical room for improvement. It's okay to tidy up the large character sprites with jagged outlines and make DoTT feel more like a Tex Avery cartoon, because that's what it was aiming for in the first place. What does an improved version of Mark Ferrari and Steve Purcell's 256-colour backgrounds, or a higher resolution Guybrush sprite, really look like? Any update of this just inevitably ends up being a perversion of it that misses it by a country mile. Obviously MI2 original background art like this is beautiful, and it'd be lovely to see that in a game, but that's only part of the puzzle. MI2 Special Edition approximated those paintings with varying success, but I thought the character design and animation was horribly contrived and literal. Those remakes sort of consolidated my thoughts about how it was a thankless task to attempt such remasters - even if they hadn't put a foot wrong (and they did that plenty) I doubt we'd want to revisit them. I'd love to see some examples of what the ideal remaster would look like, because maybe it's just my lack of imagination - but really I think the early games thrived on the gap that your imagination filled in for you. Thinking beyond remasters, I'm hoping that the healthy Double Fine/Disney relationship means that maybe Tim will get a chance to use his characters again when he feels like it. I doubt there will be a Grim or Full Throttle sequel or spin-off any time soon, but that's so much more likely than it was a couple of years ago.
  16. Jeff Goldblum

    I haven't felt compelled to watch any of the Marvel films besides Guardians of the Galaxy, but with Taika Waititi directing and now Jeff Goldblum being in it, I'm convinced. Need to catch up on previous Thor now.
  17. Modest Tech: The NX Generation (Nintendo Switch)

    Overcooked and Stardew Valley are both perfect for Switch and seemed inevitable. I'm looking forward to seeing what the multiplayer will bring to the latter. I already have it on Steam but no doubt I'll get it for Switch just for the portable aspect - it's a great game to dabble in for an in-game day or two, i.e. a train journey. Shakedown Hawaii is news to me, it looks bonkers and they've got the Cannon Fodder/Micro Machines feel spot on. I loved everything about Steamworld Heist, then picked up Dig in a Steam sale and got bored of it quite quickly - so, mixed feelings about the new Image & Form game being a Dig sequel. Judging by the trailer it seems to have a bit more going on, so I'm hopeful. In danger of losing track of all the 'Metroidvania' titles but I thought Dandara looked quite good. Another hardcore platformer that wasn't in that Direct is Celeste. It's worth watching the 10 minute gameplay video as well as the trailer for that to see more of the mechanics involved.
  18. I'm really looking forward to it too. I didn't back the Kickstarter as it came across as too much of an exercise in nostalgia at that point, but having followed the development blog and podcasts, I'm impressed at how it's evolved - particularly the pixel art, which is now looking really intricate and atmospheric. Poking around in the Photoshop file Ron posted to illustrate an art asset export tool in this post was the turning point for me - that work-in-progress background is fantastic, so much attention to detail. I'm hoping the humour and the puzzling will live up to my expectations, as this game looks to be just what I need right now. I'm kicking myself that I forgot to contribute a library book! Oh well. Did anyone else here write one?
  19. Letterboxd

    I've been keeping a film diary on Mubi for a while, but I've been tempted by Letterboxd's very smart UI and community, and have now pitched up there too - here I am. I've struggled to get the import feature to work with files Mubi exports, so for now it's only my ongoing 2017 viewing. Anyway, now following you lot on there!
  20. Taboo

    Jessie Buckley is great as one of the major characters in Taboo. If you saw the War & Peace adaptation last year, you may remember her as an outstanding Marya Bolkonsky (daughter to a bad-tempered Jim Broadbent). It also features Oona Chaplin (Talisa Stark in Game of Thrones) doing a good job in a role that seemed fairly thankless for the first few episodes, but gets more interesting.
  21. Casablanca (1942)

    Umberto Eco wrote an interesting essay focused on Casablanca's status as a cult film - the original cult film, really. Because it was made up as Curtiz went along, it's stuffed with old clichés and classic, archetypal moments that have already worked well in other films. It becomes a collection of disparate but extremely memorable, likeable and endlessly quotable scenes, characters and lines. More than the sum of that 'hodgepodge' of parts, it's inadvertently a cult phenomenon - if not, Eco argues, an aesthetically perfect whole film in its own right. I'll stop paraphrasing the short essay because he explains it far better and with close reference to the film, but the key is: "Casablanca became a cult movie because it is not one movie. It is 'movies'." I think that sort of explains why people have kept coming back to Casablanca - it's like a really great mixtape. After Casablanca, you get films deliberately designed to achieve the same kind of cult appeal, then films referencing those, and then of course it's a cacophony that can never be picked apart.
  22. Idle Thumbs: A Patreon

    Splendid, I've pledged! I've recently started using Patreon to follow and support people (mostly comics creators) and really like it as a platform. It's great that there's a way to do these special RSS feeds. Happy to help, and hyped for IIT.
  23. Other podcasts

    I'm four episodes into The Mysterious Secrets of Uncle Bertie's Botanarium and enjoying it: It's a comedy serial with a strong Jules Verne influence, starring Jemaine Clement (of Flight of the Conchords, and now Moana I believe) as a snooty aristocrat from 'the Gravy Islands' following the trail of his botanist father, on a quest to destroy a fabled plant called Heaven's Clover. The script is nicely freewheeling and ridiculous without being too zany too often, so far. Also, the audio design is impressive - it feels more like a well-produced BBC radio drama than a podcast in that respect. It seems they're uploading the first season at a rate of three episodes every week to the above feed - presumably to hook people in for the second season, which is available through a subscription service like this one was last year.
  24. Taboo

    I'm up to where you are - yep, it's good stuff. I don't really like Peaky Blinders (also created by Steven Knight - and featuring Tom Hardy, albeit in a much smaller role), so I was skeptical abut Taboo at first, but after the first scene between Jonathan Pryce and Hardy I was hooked. This has a strong direction and plenty of interesting characters and ideas, rather than just bringing buckets of viscera and swearing to a period setting (although it does that too, I suppose). It manages to keep all plates - the political intrigue, the family mysteries, the voodoo visions, etc. - nicely spinning in every episode. Agreed about Mark Gatiss, seems too over-the-top even for this. But otherwise it's perfectly cast - Jason Watkins, Tom Hollander, Stephen Graham... I particularly like David Hayman as Brace; he gets so many good lines. Planning to watch episode 5 tonight. Hoping for another scene of Pryce getting really pissed off, always a highlight.