Author Archive

GAME REVIEW: Platformines

Platformines is a platform-jumper shooter that takes place in a mine (who would have guessed?) It was released by Magiko Games in March 2014.

The basic premise is that you are a member of a crew that mans an underground excavation vehicle called the Robodig. It has broken mid-dig and scattered the nine block cannons that could be used to repair it. The mines are filled with hostile monsters of various shapes as well as hostile weapon-toting humans. At any given time the location of the next block cannon is marked on your map as well as providing a directional arrow and distance on the main play screen. So you have to navigate through the maze-like mines fighting hostiles all the while to get to each cannon until you’ve collected all nine.

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GAME REVIEW: VVVVVV

VVVVVV is a platformer game released by Terry Cavanagh in 2010, based around a single simple idea–what if, instead of jumping, you could reverse gravity? The plot of the game is that a crew of five people has some kind of accident that leaves it stuck, and with the screw scattered across the area when there’s a transporter problem. You are the captain and it’s your responsibility to find your crew members and return them to the ship so you can leave again. You can flip gravity–the reason for this is not explained, but none of the other crew members seem to be able to do it, some captain’s privilege I guess. The one restriction is that to flip it , you have to have your feet on a solid surface–you can’t flip back and forth in mid-air, you have to wait until you land.

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Podcast Spotlight: Pseudopod

“I have a story for you, and I promise you it’s true.” Pseudopod was the first horror fiction podcast, running continuously since 2006. They cover the whole spectrum of horror, new to old, gory to non, psychological to grossout, it’s all there. Alasdair Stuart’s thoughtful after-story comments are a huge draw to the podcast as well. Among the feature length episodes are “Flash in the Borderlands” episode that group together three flash horror stories with a related theme. Even if I don’t like the story in a particular week, I’ll listen to the end just so I can hear what he has to say. They publish a lot of really great stuff.

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GAME REVIEW: Fez

Fez is a platform jumper with an interdimensional twist, released by Polytron in 2012. In Fez, you are a marshmallow-looking fellow happily living in his little town of similar marshmallow-looking people until you meet a divine being known as the Hypercube which gives you a magical hat (the titular fez) which gives you the ability to venture into… dun dun DUN… the third dimension. Or, well, kind of the third dimension–more accurately a two-dimensional orthogonal projection of a rotatable view of the third dimension. Yes, yes, I know that’s confusing unless you happen to have a computer graphics background. It takes a little work to wrap your head around it, but once you understand it is a neat idea that lends the game most of its novelty.

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GAME REVIEW: One Finger Death Punch

One Finger Death Punch is a Kung Fu fighting game released by Silver Dollar Games in March 2014 with an extremely simple control scheme. So simple that it only uses two buttons–one to attack left, and one to attack right. If you attack when there’s no enemy within range, then you miss and leave yourself vulnerable to attack. And for the most part that’s all you need to know. The game punishes button-mashing (randomly and rapidly pressing buttons) because missing an attack is the last thing you want to do.

Of course, there are some complications. Enemies sometimes drop weapons. Some give you unlimited range one-kill hits like bow and arrows, throwing knifes and bombs. Others just give you extended range for a limited period of time like swords, clubs, and some sillier ones like fish.
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GAME REVIEW: DLC Quest

DLC Quest is a platform-jumper game released by Going Loud Studios in 2013 meant to parody games which charge extra money for extended content–extra playable characters, extra worlds, extra quests, etc. This kind of pay-to-add feature is known as Downloadable Content or DLC for short (the name seems a little misleading since all Steam games are themselves downloadable content, but DLC seems to refer only to paying extra to get more out of games you already own).

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Lego Movie

Emmet Brickowski is just a regular guy, a Lego construction worker in Bricksburg who is at his best when he has a set of instructions to follow. He does everything exactly the way that he’s supposed to, but never gets much notice from anyone. Everything changes when he stays for just a moment at the construction site after everyone has left and he meets a mysterious woman named WyldStyle. Emmet falls into a hole and discovers a strange artifact. He passes out, and wakes up in the custody of Good Cop/Bad Cop a dual personality policeman in the employ of the supreme ruler President Business. The artifact, called the Piece of Resistance, is stuck to Emmett’s back. Wyldstyle rescues him, and they escape Bricksburg together into the Wild West.

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Tiny and Big: Grandpa’s leftovers is a 3-D platform “jump and slice” game released by Black Pants Studio in 2012 . Tiny is the main character, a scrawny inventor whose best friend is his AI car radio. Tiny’s grandfather gave him a pair of very special underpants as his inheritance, but Big (Tiny’s nemesis) has stolen them and fled into the desert.

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Podcast Spotlight: Escape Pod

Now that my Best Podcast Fiction of All Time list is out in the public, it’s time to kick off my next series of podcast fiction features: The Podcast Spotlight. Each month I’ll focus on a single podcast, talking a bit about the origins and history of the podcast, the editor(s) and host(s) the podcast has had, and will give a list of my favorite episodes of that podcast since it began to give you a good place to start listening.

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GAME REVIEW: Super Meat Boy

Super Meat Boy is an unforgiving fast-paced platform-jumper game published by Team Meat in 2010.

Meat Boy is the name of our protagonist. No, it’ s not a lewd stage name. Meat Boy is literally a cube of raw red meat with arms, legs, and a face. The love of his life is Bandage Girl who, as you might guess, is an anthropomorphic Band-Aid. If you’re confused, so am I. I feel like I’m missing a joke. Are these two paired because Meat Boy is literally dripping blood and Bandage Girl is an item meant to absorb blood? I don’t know.
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GAME REVIEW: Machinarium

Machinarium is a point-and-click puzzle game published by Amanita Design in 2009. In the game you are a robot who has been dismantled and dumped from the robot city into the endless junkyard beyond. You had lived happily with your friends until a gang of thugs came and split you up, using each of you for your own devices. Now you need to find your way back into the city, rescue your friends, and keep the gang from doing anything like that again.
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The final installment of my Best Podcast Fiction of All Time List, is finally here, revealing the top ten. You can find  the individual posts as they were posted #41-50 here,  #31-40 here,  #21-30 here, and #11-20 here.  For those who just want to get to the Top Ten already I’ve listed that first.  For ease of reference, I’ve also included the entire list of fifty at the bottom of the post so if you want to refer people to the list, you can just link here.

These are (my opinion of) what is the best of the best, the most epic of the most epic.  Load them all up and have an awesome road trip, or ration them out over months of liistening.

I would love if other fiction podcast fans would comment here and say what their own favorites are and why.

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GAME REVIEW: Limbo


Limbo is a sidescroller puzzle game published by Playdead in 2010 with a very sharp visual style. Your character is a silhouette of a boy interacting with silhouettes of environmental objects with a grayscale background, trying to safely traverse a dangerous environment to… well, the game never really explains that. You wake in a field of grass and then you get the controls, no explanation, text, dialog, anything to give you a story other than the events of what you see on the screen.

So, you make the most of things and start wandering, and soon you discover that this is a very dangerous place when you get chopped in half by a bear trap, fall onto spike pits, and get speared by the leg of a giant spider.

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The penultimate installment of my Best Podcast Fiction of All Time List, covering #11-20. You can find #41-50 here,  #31-40 here, and #21-30 here.

Just one more list to go!

It was very hard to pick out my favorites among all the great stuff out there.  Now I want to listen to them all again!

Please comment, follow along, share this list with your friends.
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GAME REVIEW: The Stanley Parable

How do I describe The Stanley Parable? To say it as briefly as possible I’d say it’s a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure comedic meta-narrative built on an FPS engine–I will elaborate on what I mean by that. It was developed by Davey Wreden and released in 2011, and then was expanded for further release that included distribution on Steam in 2013.

You are Stanley. You work at a desk where you are give instructions to press keys on your keyboard one after another. One day you notice you realize you’ve been there for an hour without receiving any instructions. You get up to ask your colleagues if they’re experiencing similar interruptions in workflow, only to discover that their desks are empty. You set out to find someone and find that the whole building is apparently devoid of life apart from you. Unless, of course, you count the British voiceover that’s narrating your every action and telling you what you’re going to do next.
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GAME REVIEW: Braid

Braid is a sidescroller puzzle game released by Number None in 2008. It’s gotten a lot of buzz over the last few years, including placing #94 on G4TV’S Top 100 Video Games of All Time in 2013. That ranking surprised me as I watched that list, considering that, at a glance, it appeared to be using Super Nintendo era technology. Not that I mind an older look (I love me some retro gaming), but that kind of list tends toward the new and trendy and whizbang hardware-limit-pushing stuff. So I wondered, what exactly made this game so special?
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BOOK REVIEW: Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett

Raising Steam is the newest of the sprawling Discworld series of satirical comedic fantasy written by Terry Pratchett, the fortieth to be published.

If you haven’t read any of the Discworld series, you really should give it a try. It takes place on Discworld, a world that is (as you might suspect from the name) a flat disc that spins on the back of four great elephants who stand on the back of Great A’Tuin, a spacefaring sea turtle. My favorites in the series include Small Gods, Interesting Times, The Hogfather, and Feet of Clay. The series as a whole is linked only by the world, not always by characters or countries or time periods, though there are kind of sub-series within the main series that follow certain groups of characters to give them an arc. But you can read the books in pretty much any order (you’ll just appreciate some of the little things more if you’re aware of where the series has already been.

Raising Steam, like most of the books in the series, mostly takes place in Ankh-Morpork, the melting pot city-state that reminds me of a mixture of New York City and Los Angeles, ruled by the semi-benevolent demi-tyrannical Patrician.
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This is my third installment of my Best Podcast Fiction of All Time List, covering #21-30. You can find #41-50 here and #31-40 here.  This is the middle list of the five pack–just two more to go!  I hope some of you are tuning in and listening to them all–would make for an epic road trip (though many of the stories are not suitable for children so probably not a whole family road trip).

Please comment, follow along, share this list with your friends.
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WRITERS’ RETREAT:
ABANDON YOUR LIFE FOR THREE MONTHS.
Just disappear.
Leave behind everything that keeps you from creating your masterpiece.
Your job and family and home, all those obligations and distractions–
Put them on hold for three months.
Live with like-minded people in a setting that supports total immersion in your work.  Food and lodging included free for those who qualify.  Gamble a small fraction of your life on the chance to create a new future as a professional poet, novelist, screenwriter.
Before it’s too late, live the life you dream about.  Spaces very limited.

That’s the ad that starts it all, in Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk (most well-known for authoring Fight Club), which gathers a group of writers together, locked into a house for three months, with just the contents of a suitcase.
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I don’t usually have a lot of time for gaming, but when I saw a link to an early access version of Hack ‘n’ Slash by Double Fine Productions on Steam, I impulse-bought it.

At a glance, it looks a lot like a SNES-era Legend of Zelda game. Green-tuniced, sword-wielding adventurer wandering around and fighting wizards and etc. The similarities are big enough that it has to be an intentional tribute — boomerangs and bombs, a little flying companion who gives you advice, and lost woods. That’s fine, I don’t mind a tribute to Zelda.

But what really makes the game interesting is the twist added to it. Instead of a good old-fashioned sharp-edged sword, you have a hacking sword that looks rather like a USB thumb drive that you can use to alter the internal variables of creatures and objects in the world. You can change an enemy to be friendly or to move in a different pattern when idle. You can unlock a door, or change how far a rock will move when you push it.

Programming and adventure game combined–count me interested!

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