Author Archive

Book Review: SNUFF by Terry Pratchett

Snuff is one of the newest of the many books in Terry Pratchett’s excellent Discworld series. Within the larger series there are subseries which follow particular characters. In general, you can pick any Discworld book off the shelf and expect to be able to follow it, but some can be better appreciated if you know the character history from the previous books.

Snuff is the newest book following Commander of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch Sam Vimes. In Sam Vimes’s first books he began as a poor beat cop walking the streets in his cardboard-soled boots as one of the three city watchmen. Over the other books he became Commander of the ever-growing City Watch, has become a trusted advisor of the Patrician (the semi-benevolent tyrant) and a diplomat, and started a family when he married Lady Sybil Ramkin and had a son whom they call Young Sam.
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GAME REVIEW: Super Amazing Wagon Adventure

If you’re like me, you were one of many, many kids who got to play the edutainment game Oregon Trail at school originally published by MECC in 1977 with various updated releases since then. In case you’re not familiar with it, the game follows a family setting out on the Oregon Trail in the 1850s to settle in the west. You have money, food, bullets, sets of clothes for your family, and you have to try to keep everyone alive on the trail. Your characters can die from starvation, various diseases, from exposure, from drowning if you fail a river crossing, probably some other things that I’ve forgotten. Part of the appeal of the game, at least to me, was that you could name your family members–so typically you’d name them after your classmates and then could shout out in study hall “Hey Paul, you just died from cholera!” And you could also leave gravestones with custom epitaphs where your last party member died so other players would see them as they pass in future playthroughs.

Now, imagine that someone went back in time and interviewed every kid who was enjoying playing through this game and asked each of them one simple question: “If you could add one thing to make this game more awesome, what would it be?” And then that someone made a game that incorporate all of the answers without the slightest regard to historical accuracy. That someone would be Sparsevector, and that game would be Super Amazing Wagon Adventure, released in October 2013.
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GAME REVIEW: To the Moon

To the Moon is a story-heavy light-puzzle game released by Freebird Games in 2011.

Johnny is unconscious and on his deathbed. He might not survive the night. Dr. Eva Rosalene and Dr. Neil Watts of the Sigmund Corporation are called in to fulfill Johnny’s contract. Sigmund Corporation will grant your dying wish… sort of. They can rewrite your memories to change the narrative arc of their life and make sure their wish comes true. The main problem of the procedure is that the new memories overwrite the real memories, but nothing has changed in the real world to match them, so Sigmund Corporation will only perform the operation when a person is near death, so they can wake up and experience the new memories before they die.

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GAME REVIEW: Gunpoint

Gunpoint is a 2D stealth strategy game released by Tom Francis released in 2013. In it, you play a private detective specializing in infiltration of secure buildings (mostly breaking into secure office buildings, stealing/planting data and then escaping it). As the game starts, you get a call to visit the office of a friend but when you get there you find that she’s been murdered in the short time since the phone call. You don’t see any clear evidence but the building security camera recorded you entering her office.

A friend of your dead friend contacts you, warning you that you’ll be the primary suspect for the lazy local police force. She wants the real killer to be found so she contracts your services to break into the five offices that store the automatic offsite backups of that security feed.

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GAME REVIEW: FTL

FTL is a game by Subset Games published in 2012 (with all-new game expansions published in April 2014). It’s a space exploration and combat game with much of the challenge coming from resource allocation problems.

You are the captain of a Federation ship that has vital information about the war against the Rebels. You have to race ahead of the Rebel fleet to reach a Federation base that can make use of the information.
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GAME REVIEW: The Maw

The Maw is a 3D puzzle/adventure game released by Twisted Pixel in 2009. The game starts as your player character — a rather cutesy alien of childish proportions — is taken into custody by a military force and put into a force field cell on a transport ship with other captured species of various varieties. Before long, the ship crashes and the player escapes. The player soon makes friends with a tiny but ever-hungry purple blob, the title character known as the Maw. The blob is held in a collar and the player character soon finds an electric leash that can latch to the collar and direct it.

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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 Best Podcast Fiction of All Time (#11 – #20)

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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